Visiting openers negotiate tricky passage to cut arrears before early close

Sussex 301 and 38 for 0 trail Lancashire 339 for 5 (Vilas 189) by 68 runs

A day that began with snow at Emirates Old Trafford ended with bad light at 4.30pm followed by rain, sleet and a premature dusk tugging at the sky’s skirts. In between those meteorological events, one of them eccentric, another inevitable, we had a day of shreds and patches in which Lancashire established a first-innings lead of 106, only for Sussex’s openers to reduce the advantage to 68 without too many alarums. If Dane Vilas’s bowlers hear any dreamy lullabies this evening, they will concern early wickets in good weather on the morrow. One cannot like their chances with the weather but the pressure exerted by Saqib Mahmood and Tom Bailey will warm the home coaches this evening. Merciful God, something needs to.

There are days in the close season when one arrives at this ground and observes with sage joviality that cricket would be impossible. The rain is icy and grey skies complete the wintry aspect. This was one such morning. Friday’s improvement in the weather had been brief. Folk arrived from distant parts – well, Skelmersdale anyway – with talk of snow. Sleet speckled the morning air, sending the already euphoric photographers scurrying for their cameras. A thrush perched outside Exchange Quay looked so beruffled it might have been a distant descendant of Thomas Hardy’s possibly percipient bird.

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