Magic Mushy does the trick
Mushtaq Ahmed inspired Sussex with more of his “magic” as the county champions took 13 Worcestershire wickets at Hove to put themselves on the brink of the title for a second successive season.
Mushtaq’s match haul of 9-157 so far helped Sussex bowl the visitors out for 213 in their first innings and then leave them 190 for five when bad light brought an early close to day three.
Unless Lancashire pull off a highly unlikely last-day run chase at The Brit Oval, Sussex will clinch the title ahead of Durham as long as they can complete their victory on Saturday.
All those equations were running through the mind of Sussex coach Mark Robinson as he reflected on his team’s achievements as they bid to sneak the silverware on the last day of the season.
“It’s been a very good, very courageous day,” said Robinson. “It’s a flat, dead wicket - and Mushy’s just done his magic.
“He’s not really fit; he’s on one knee - he’s been on one knee for the last three weeks.
“But he’s obviously very, very skilful - a strike bowler. On a wicket like that, which is dead, he’s the difference, because he can open games up.”
Sussex’s prospects of a third title in five summers are significantly improved from what they were when they began this final round of matches six points adrift of the Red Rose county.
Injuries and unavailabilities appeared likely to compromise their usual firepower - and huge responsibility has therefore been placed on Mushtaq’s shoulders.
“We are down to our last 13 fit players here. What we’ve got is out there - and we’re giving it a red-hot go,” added Robinson.
“This was always a must-win game - it was whether we had enough resources to do it.
“But we’ve got the score we needed - without a hundred, everybody chipping in. The same with the ball - we’ve just hung in there.”
As for Mushtaq, Robinson expects him to stay the course when the margins become critical on on the final day.
“He’s mentally strong, and I think he’s got us so close now nothing will stop him,” said Robinson. “We know he’s carrying injuries, but this is the strength of the character.”
Win, lose or draw Robinson is delighted Sussex have shown their mettle once again to be involved in the tightest of title run-ins.
“It’s exciting, slightly nervous, eyes on Surrey - all those things,” he said. “It’s great for county cricket to have the season going to a climax.”