Richard Levi’s unbeaten half-century led Northamptonshire to a six-wicket win over Sussex on the fourth afternoon at Wantage Road to keep alive their hopes of promotion from Division Two of the Specsavers County Championship.
Levi made a typically breeze fifty in 61 balls with six boundaries and a six as Northants chased 140 for a rare maximum-points victory. Sussex left with only three bowling bonus points.
Worcestershire’s victory at Trent Bridge leaves them firm favourites to join Nottinghamshire in Division One next season but Northants stay in the hunt with this win while Sussex are also still contention. Both sides have three matches remaining and a game in hand on Worcestershire.
Northants’ biggest obstacle to victory was likely to be the weather, with an horrendous forecast suggesting little play would be possible on the final day. But remarkably, after a morning shower that brought an early lunch, the match was completed in sunny spells.
That the match was still in progress into day four was thanks to a record ninth wicket stand for Sussex against Northants, compiled by David Wiese and Jofra Archer on the third evening. Archer extended his career-best score to 81 not out but his final partner, Danny Briggs, was caught at midwicket in the second over after lunch, trying to pull Azharullah.
The chase began with a solid opening stand of 28 before Rob Newton was caught at the wicket off Wiese. Ben Duckett played some attractive strokes in reaching 28 before he was also caught by wicketkeeper Ben Brown top-edging a pull to hand Archer a second wicket of the match.
Sussex also removed Alex Wakely - caught hooking for a second time in the game, this a well-held chance by Angus Robson at deep square for 14 - and Luke Procter strangled down the leg side for just 2.
But Levi played the innings a small chase needs. He got himself set before striking Briggs’ left-arm spin down the ground for six then four and also late cut the same bowler for another boundary. He and Josh Cobb, who finished 22 not out, brought Northants home with Cobb striking the winning boundary.
Mark Davis, Sussex head coach, said: "This game went wrong on day one. We chose to bowl first and conditions didn’t suit us, the ball got wet and was hard to bowl with - but we lost control and we need to be better than that. To score 400 on that pitch was far too many and that set the rest of the game up.
“Had we got 250-280 in the first innings, we could have put them under more pressure on this final day but ultimately we didn’t play well enough on day one."