The Sussex management sat down to discuss contracts this week and top of the agenda was keeping hold of the hottest property in county cricket.

Rana Naved has helped transform Sussex's Championship fortunes in the second half of the season.

When the Pakistani paceman joined at the beginning of July, Sussex had won just two of their first eight Championship games and were in danger of surrendering their first division status.

The 27-year-old took 7-74 on his first four-day appearance as Sussex won at Canterbury and when Kent visit Hove for the return next week the stakes will be a lot different.

Sussex's place in the top flight is secure and there is still a slim chance that they might win their second title in three seasons. An eighth runners-up finish in their history is a more realistic target.

Of course Sussex's improvement in the second half of the season has not all been down to the quiet man from Sheikhupura.

But 48 wickets at less than 20 a piece in just eight games is a record unmatched during the second half of the season, even by his compatriot and close friend Mushtaq Ahmed.

Do not forget, either, the career-best 139 he thumped at Lord's which he trumped the following day by taking four wickets in an over as Sussex completed their first two-day win of the season.

The second, over hapless Glamorgan at Hove last week, was topped and tailed by another sensational burst from Naved, who took the first three secondinnings wickets in 20 balls on his way to a county best 5-41.

What a parting gift from outgoing director of cricket Peter Moores Sussex's latest overseas signing has turned out to be. Moores worked diligently during the winter, canvassing a lot of opinions and burning the midnight oil at home watching TV coverage of him against Australia.

Now Sussex want to make sure Rana is here for the long haul. He will be offered a two or three-year contract and finance is unlikely to be an issue for someone for whom the opportunity to play county cricket and broaden his experience means so much more than hard cash.

"I have enjoyed my first season with Sussex so much," he said.

"Now we will sit down to talk about the future, probably next week when my agent comes to the Kent game.

"Everything has gone well for me. The facilities here are very good, the club is well organised and most importantly the other guys are a lovely team. They have made me and my family very welcome which has meant a lot. It makes me happy to be here."

However long he agrees to stay for, Rana's second season at Hove will be interrupted if he is chosen for Pakistan's tour to England from June-September.

The Pakistan Cricket Board, and coach Bob Woolmer in particular, monitor the performances of their players in county cricket closely.

They have expressed disappointment with Essex at the workload leg-spinner Danish Kaneria has been shouldering but Woolmer is much happier with Sussex, who have not overbowled Rana, although skipper Chris Adams admits it's often been hard to get the ball off him as he chases another wicket.

It will not do any harm that Rana's future will be moulded by coach Mark Robinson, a former member of the fast bowlers' union who soon became aware of just what a highly-skilled operator Sussex had on their hands.

"I went into the nets when he first arrived and I soon realised there wasn't much I could teach him," he said.

"He's been consistently fast, swung it round corners and has a fantastic change of pace. He also uses the crease well to vary the line of attack.

"Sometimes, when he reverse-swings it he shows the batsman the ball to let him know which way it is going to go before flicking it in his hand so it goes the other way. I wish I'd been able to do that when I bowled!"

Robinson and Adams also like the way Rana maintains his aggression at tail-enders.

"He has hit a few of them on the head because he hates them hanging around," said Robinson. "He's like an old-fashioned bowler in that way."

With Woolmer happy and Rana happy there is a good chance that Sussex will at least have him available for the first few weeks of next season.

Robinson added: "We haven't discussed it with the PCB but I think Woolmer would realise that it would be a bonus to have him in rhythm at the start of their tour even if he is slightly tired. But that won't be sorted out until the winter."

One thing is certain. When they sit down to reflect on the season the first topic of conversation among the management will be what Sussex might have achieved had Rana been available all season.

Robinson believes there is every likelihood that he could have taken 100 firstclass wickets. All three agree that they would have won the Championship.

Instead they have had to settle for a briefer glimpse at his mercurial talents. It's been enough to convince them, and everyone else at Hove, that Naved is a bowler around whom they can build their attack for the next few years