Sussex ran out of time and serviceable daylight at Hove today.

Then, just as a halt was officially called, the heavens opened anyway.

But they can probably look at a brighter outlook after opening the season by drawing with Northants.

The old ground had stood out like a beacon in the sunshine as the first round of Championship cricket headed to a conclusion.

One hesitates to say the first game of the summer – or even spring given the way weather ravaged fixtures across the country.

In the end, the sun did not last long enough to see the county force what would have been a remarkable win against the clock.

Nor was there any assistance from floodlights. Sussex opted not to use them for Championship cricket this season for various reasons, including cost.

There appeared a cruel irony, then, that they ended this first game early due to bad light.

But then the rain came anyway.

Indeed, much of the day or so lost over the course of the fixture was due to rain or the wet outfield rather than light.

At close, Northants were clinging on at 170-9 in the third innings of the match, a lead of 63.

Given time, the Sussex run-chase should have been a formality.

Frustrating. But they showed clear signs of the positive intent laid out by new skipper John Simpson as they made most of the running, which can only be a good sign.

The 1st Central County Ground did not totally escape the inclement early-season conditions across the four days.

Overs lost on earlier days put the chances of a result just beyond the county in the end.

But they gave it a good go before a handful of spectators around the ground and up to 3,500 watching the livestream as drama built.

Sussex were certainly the team looking to force the result against a Northants side relegated from the top flight last term as play went into a final session which started beneath a bright sky and against a backdrop of black cloud gathering over the Downs.

A draw gives them 15 points with which to start a season in which they are targeting a return to the top flight of what is now entitled the Vitality County Championship.

There has not been much vitality around the county’s results in four-day cricket ever since they beat Hampshire in the opening round of the Bob Willis Trophy in the Covid-delayed 2020 season.

But late-season form last year, and the subsequent addition of experience, have raised hopes for this campaign.

From an unpromising start here, in which Ollie Robinson and Jayden Seales did not cause the early chaos which might have been hoped for on day one, they gradually took a grip on proceedings.

Seales’ debut will feature among the positives of the contest if looking for individual highlights.

The West Indies fast bowler made the first inroads and took six wickets across the match.

Robinson looked fit and sharp as he sent down 32 overs in total ahead of the international season. His match figures were 4-86.

Tom Haines’ innings of 133 brought back memories of the England talk around him two years ago, although he is keeping such thoughts firmly in the background.

And James Coles excelled in all three disciplines, his three second-innings catches including a razor sharp grab low to his left at third slip to dismiss Karun Nair off Robinson as hopes grew this afternoon.

Northants were 42-3 at that point and 57-4 soon after, still 50 runs behind after Sussex had batted with real purpose to declare on 478-9.

Luke Procter (41) and Rob Keogh (55) put on 73 in 18 overs as clouds gathered and Sussex head coach Paul Farbrace paced the boundary.

But Jack Carson had Procter leg before and the subsequent flurry included a fine catch by Tom Alsop at second slip off Michael Finan.

When the light improving again, Sussex were able to fleetingly bring back the pacemen.

Robinson only had one over, the second ball of which was a middle-stump yorker to clean bowl Ben Sanderson and have Northants nine down.

But then gloom gathered again and the halt was called with 20 overs remaining.

Sussex players did not even return to the changing room for a while, instead sitting and standing just beyond the boundary rope, ready to go back on at the first invitation.

But the reality gradually started to dawn that the first fixture had been completed.

In terms of forging the first-innings lead, Fynn Hudson-Prentice made 73 off 60 balls, Danny Lamb 41 off 55, Carson 61 from 53 and Robinson 32 from 29.

Sussex’s 478-9 came off 99.4 overs.

Coles’ contribution to the innings was a 78 which should really have been turned into three figures.

He took 3-45 and 3-36 with his spin and was one of the big pluses before the light closed in.