On a controversial day at the 125th festival, Yorkshire’s first innings was sent into freefall by a contentious incident shortly before lunch.
Yorkshire batsman Joe Root scooped a delivery from pace bowler Wayne Parnell high towards the deep fine-leg boundary in front of the pavilion.
Amjad Khan flung himself forward, apparently got his hands underneath the ball and, in the same tumbling movement, immediately threw it up in the air like a man who knew his momentum was going to cause him to spill the chance in any case. Law 32 clearly states a fielder must have “complete control both over the ball and over his own movement” for a fair catch to be taken.
But if Khan had full control, it was for no more than a nanosecond and certainly not for long enough to have uttered the words ‘Yorkshire Post’.
As Sussex celebrated, the North Marine Road crowd hooted their displeasure.
Umpires Trevor Jesty and Nick Cook conferred and decided the catch had been taken, by which time Root – to his credit – was halfway back to the pavilion having sportingly accepted the fielder’s word.
The jeers for Sussex then turned to cheers for Root, who was accorded a warm ovation after converting his overnight 111 to 160.
It was an outstanding maiden first-class century by the 20-year-old, who would appear to have a golden future.
Before Root’s dismissal at 12.42pm, Yorkshire were 345-4 in reply to Sussex’s 398 and moving inexorably towards a first-innings lead. Root and Gary Ballance (45 not out overnight) had added 94 runs in the session and 189 in total on a placid pitch beneath sunny skies.
But after lunching on 356-5, Yorkshire – seemingly unsettled by Root’s departure – endured a torrid afternoon.
Ballance pulled the first delivery after the break from James Anyon straight down the throat of Murray Goodwin at backward square-leg, thereby falling 13 short of his own maiden Championship hundred.
It was the sort of ball Ballance would ordinarily swat for six and his frustration was palpable as he left the field to another warm hand, having faced 191 balls and struck 13 fours and a six.
Shortly afterwards, there was another disputed catch when Adil Rashid, on 12, drove Monty Panesar to mid-off, where Parnell maintained he had clutched the ball, right-handed, inches from the ground. There was sufficient doubt for Jesty and Cook to adjudge Rashid not out.
Two balls later, however, the leg-spinner was gone, slashing Panesar to point where there was no doubt about the validity of Wernars’s catch as the ball ballooned up apologetically.
Yorkshire fell to 378-8 when Rich Pyrah was caught by Ed Joyce low at second slip off Khan and then to 383-9 when Ryan Sidebottom sliced Khan to mid-off, where Wernars judged a good catch running backwards.
The innings ended on 388 when Moin Ashraf was superbly caught by Michael Yardy, low to his left at first slip off Khan, the last six Yorkshire wickets going down for 43 runs in 22 overs.
Although Yorkshire were disappointed to concede a deficit of 10, there are many occasions when the third innings of games proves decisive when there is relative parity between solid first-innings scores.
Yorkshire knew a good haul of wickets in the 12 overs that remained before tea and during the final session would give them a chance of obtaining the win they sorely need to alleviate pressure near the foot of the table.
That may still happen at some point today, but Sussex lost only three wickets in reaching 126 at the close, a lead of 136.
With the advantage of being two places and 25 points above the relegation zone prior to this match, there is no compulsion for the visitors to force the issue, so it remains to be seen whether the final day produces a fascinating climax.
The batsmen to fall were Ed Joyce, strangled down the leg-side off Sidebottom for 42; Chris Nash, lbw to Steve Patterson for 32, and Luke Wells, caught at leg-slip for 20 by Anthony McGrath off Rashid, who could hold the key to Yorkshire’s hopes if he can find the form of which he is capable.
Goodwin (30) and nightwatchman Anyon (one) fought through to stumps on a pitch that remains good for batting, with the first session – as always – likely to be key.