A see-saw game sawed away from Surrey on day three as Sussex, led by another inspired Luke Wells innings, took complete control of the match. The classy young left hander now averages 101 in three matches against us. Surrey go into the final day 188 runs in arrears with nine second innings wickets still intact.
Sussex began the day 90-6, reeling from the burst from Stuart Meaker the previous day but the Surrey quick would not add to his tally of three wickets. The Sussex tail enders, along with Wells, conspired to add a monumental 264 runs to effectively bat us out of the game.
It was a depressingly familiar situation, too many times this season and in seasons before we have allowed tail end batsmen to get away with murder. Clearly the pitch was no minefield but for the final four batting pairs to add 140 runs more than our entire team managed is unacceptable. That included an entertaining (if you're a Sussex fan) 80 run partnership from James Anyon and Monty Panesar. Yes, that Monty Panesar. We were unusually poor in the field as the day wore on, perhaps because heads were beginning to drop.
To ram home the point that this is a problem, the average tenth wicket partnership against us this season is 26. To put that into perspective the average third wicket partnership against us is 22, and the average fourth wicket partnership is 27. We are adept at reducing top orders to dribbling messes, but don't seem able to clean up the tail. With bowlers of such talent it is hard to say what is the problem, I can only come to the conclusion that it is a failure to formulate plans for lower order batsmen. It's that or a failure to execute those plans, either way, it's not good.
Meaker, Lewis and Kartik plugged away and at least managed to keep the runs down in tricky windy conditions, but Dernbach and Batty failed to do the same. Dernbach was particularly poor, although he was unlucky not to pick up a couple of wickets late in the day. At one point he had only bowled just eight of 95 overs, a sure sign that his captain had no confidence in him. Between them, Dernbach and Batty bowled 26 overs all told, for one wicket (Batty got Panesar to end the innings) and 123 runs at almost 5 runs per over.
So from a position where we might've hoped for a small first innings lead, or at the least a deficit around the 50 mark, Sussex's lead in the end was 227 and all hope of victory was long gone. Jason Roy and Mark Ramprakash emerged to open our reply and had 14 tricky overs to face. Ramps was subdued as Roy took the bulk of the strike and played a very sensible innings to his great credit. His demise was brought about only by a brute of a delivery from Magoffin which reared up from a good length. That delivery, and a couple that snapped and bounced from Panesar will be giving the batsmen nightmares.
Ramprakash and nightwatchman Meaker saw the final 11 balls of the day out as Surrey closed on 39-1 with a mountain to climb, or if not climb, at least not fall off. What will tomorrow bring? The weather looks set fair so we probably won't be able to rely on any rain. It would be magnificent to see Ramprakash return to form to save the game, but that would be very much against the grain. You have to assume the bulk of the work will have to be done by Davies, Maynard (if he has recovered - he was off the field for the entire day after sustaining minor injuries in a car accident) and the captain.
If we make it through tomorrow unscathed there will be some positives to draw on, but we will have the weather to thank for avoiding an embarrassing defeat. If we do get rolled over cheaply, defeat will be nothing less than we deserve. After this game Adams has a month free of Championship cricket to work out what his best side is. He needs to decide who plays where, and stick to it.