Lancashire 494 for 6 dec (Vilas 132*, Jones 88, Davies 72, Jennings 65, Maxwell 59) beat Sussex 127 (Parkinson 6-23, Maxwell 4-41) and 316 (Rawlins 100, Wiese 77, Parkinson 4-142) by an innings and 51 runs
It did not save his side. It did not even help his team avoid an innings defeat. But Delray Rawlins' maiden first-class century prompted a congratulatory tweet from Jofra Archer whom, one might think, has been preoccupied with other things recently. And it brought smiles back to the faces on the Sussex balcony, a place which has been notably devoid of happiness over the last three weeks or so.
Rawlins reached his hundred in the grandest of fashions, with an enormous straight six into the pavilion at Old Trafford off the bowling of Matthew Parkinson. Some said the ball was still rising when it went over the rope. It had certainly been whacked on the screws and it was not the first such blow in Rawlins' innings. There had been a dozen fours and two other sixes in the 99 balls Rawlins took to reach three figures. Parkinson, after defining the course of the match by taking 6 for 23 in its first innings, had been forced to buy his wickets in the classical legspinner's manner. But, faithful to the Lancastrian tradition of Dick Tyldesley and Ken Grieves, he had continued to give the ball air and was to gain his reward at the end of the innings with figures of 4 for 142, thus leaving him with a match analysis of 10 for 165, the best of his career.
As far as Rawlins was concerned, Parkinson was to receive balm for his wounds the very next delivery when he dragged the ball down only to see his opponent play a back-foot drive and give a return catch. Rawlins perhaps played the shot because he had too much time to think about what to do; Parkinson caught the ball because he had no time whatever to think about dropping it. He is not yet fielding's answer to the Federal Reserve.
That breakthrough ended Rawlins' 128-run stand for the sixth wicket with David Wiese and it more or less concluded the fun for Sussex supporters, whose sufferings over the past few weeks compare unfavourably with those of Job. Four overs later Wiese swept at a ball from Parkinson was leg before wicket for a fine 77. The other Sussex batsmen lasted until tea but seven balls after the resumption Mir Hamza was also lbw to Parkinson and Lancashire's players could look forward to a beer or two.
They deserved their refreshment. Lancashire's innings and 51-run victory will almost certainly open a gap in excess of 20 points at the top of the Division Two table; Sussex, by contrast, may fall to sixth when the current round of matches is completed and no county in the kingdom will benefit as much from a refreshing change of format and personnel. The Blast - or a bloody good night in Brighton - is exactly what they need.
So much was clear in the first hour of this third day at Old Trafford when Sussex lost four wickets in nine overs and crumbled to 39 for 4. Complete disintegration beckoned and also a record innings defeat to follow the record loss in terms of runs which they suffered against Northamptonshire in their last game. Unless you were a member of Lancashire's church militant and bought a red rose for your button hole every summer morning there was very little pleasure to be gained from that first hour. A series of batsmen arrived determined to do their best yet departed in very short order having looked desperately out of form.
Varun Chopra was the first to go for 15 when he nibbled at a ball he probably did not need to play from Richard Gleeson and was caught behind by Dane Vilas. Less than three overs later Luke Wells was leg before wicket to Graham Onions for a third-ball duck and Stiaan van Zyl followed for six soon after when a flick down the leg side off Gleeson only edged another catch to Vilas. As if infected by his colleagues' lack of confidence, skipper Ben Brown meekly chipped a ball from Onions into the leg side where Haseeb Hameed held a comfortable catch at midwicket.
Considerable relief was provided by the 78-run stand between Phil Salt and Rawlins, who reached his fifty off 55 balls just before lunch. But in the over before the interval Salt played a ball from Parkinson safely, as he thought, between his feet only to see it land in a foothole and spin back slowly into his off stump. As he walked off with 37 hard-worked runs to his name Salt held out his arms to the heavens. "How long, O Lord, how long?" he might have been asking, although one imagines his vocabulary was, well, saltier. The good citizens of Amberley, Ditchling and Cuckfield may be engaged in similar supplication.