County Championship
County Championship Logo Tue 18 September, 10:30

The 1st Central County Ground, Hove

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Championship Report: Warwickshire at Sussex

Day Four – Close: Warwickshire are promoted

Warwickshire clinched promotion back to the Specsavers County Championship Division One at the first attempt by batting their way emphatically to the draw they needed against Sussex at Hove.

Under no pressure to push for victory, having banked enough points from eight wins in their first 12 games, the Bears spent the entire final day at the crease before finishing on 381 for three.

Vice-captain Dominic Sibley led the way, batting throughout the day for his third championship century of the season and second in successive matches: 144 not out (342 balls, 12 fours).

Sibley shared in two big partnerships that snuffed the life out of Sussex’s challenge: 158 in 45 overs for the first wicket with Will Rhodes (88, 146 balls, 11 fours, one six) and 168 in 54 for the third with Sam Hain (90, 165 balls,12 fours).

The match ended with cheers and celebrations among Warwickshire’s players up on the dressing-room balcony and from their travelling supporters.

Promotion assured, the Bears now face a mouth-watering final match of the season, a Division Two title duel at home to Kent starting at Edgbaston on Monday. Both teams are going up but the winners, if there are any next week, will go up as champions.

Further positive news arrived for the Bears regarding Ian Bell who retired hurt in the morning session after taking a rising ball from Ollie Robinson on the right thumb. An x-ray revealed no fracture and, though there is serious bruising, Bell could be fit to face Kent.

Warwickshire resumed on the final morning on 141 without loss and Sibley and Rhodes extended their partnership to 158 before Rhodes fell lbw to Robinson. Bell’s innings was quickly truncated by that Robinson lifter and Jonathan Trott chipped Chris Jordan to mid-wicket but Hain immediately settled in alongside Sibley.

A Sussex victory would have kept them in the promotion hunt but their challenge was extinguished as the afternoon session deepened. Their acceptance of that showed when captain Ben Brown gave batsmen Phil Salt and Michael Burgess their first bowl in first-class cricket.

Salt collected his maiden wicket when Hain, ten short of a deserved century, edged to the wicketkeeper, but there was no shifting Sibley. Back to Division One go the Bears.

Day Three – Close

Warwickshire subdued a strong fightback by Sussex to end the third day back in total command of their Specsavers County Championship match at Hove – and thereby move to the brink of promotion.

The Bears closed the third day on 141 without loss in their second innings – 238 ahead overall – after bowling the home side out for 343 (Keith Barker three for 42, Olly Stone three for 59).

After two wickets just after lunch for Jeetan Patel hurried Sussex’s innings towards a conclusion, opening batsmen Will Rhodes (76 not out, 131 balls, nine fours, one six) and Dom Sibley (43 not out, 110 balls, three fours) advanced Warwickshire into a very strong position.

Rhodes batted with great fluency while Sibley added the perfect opener’s role to a second-slip catch, taken off Olly Stone earlier, which is a valid candidate for greatest catch ever taken for Warwickshire (even challenging Varun Chopra’s similarly spectacular grab to dismiss Chris Nash off Chris Wright, also at Hove, in 2013).

After Sussex resumed on the third morning on 224 for five, David Wiese (93, 116 balls) and Ben Brown (99, 167 balls) continued their defiance to add 196 in 38 overs before the latter was bowled by a Wright in-ducker.

Brown’s excellent captain’s innings merited a century but he had to settle for a standing ovation from the appreciative spectators in the Hove deckchairs after he edged Patel and Jonathan Trott took a sharp low catch at slip.

Patel soon added the wicket of Chris Jordan, who top-edged a sweep to short fine-leg, before the innings concluded with a brilliant grab at second slip by Dom Sibley who clung on when Jofra Archer edged an exocet from Stone.

That left Warwickshire with a handy first-innings lead of 97 and teed up a crucial 21-over session up to tea. Early wickets would have put Sussex right back in the game but Rhodes and Sibley played it immaculately to take the Bears to 78 without loss at the interval, with Rhodes having already reached his half-century from 65 balls (seven fours, one six).

In the last session, the openers maintained their concentration to further tighten the Bears’ grip on the match before the light, which had been indifferent for most of the day, finally closed in to lop off the last 13 overs.

Another solid day tomorrow will seal Warwickshire’s promotion back to Division Two at the first attempt.

Day Two – Close

Olly Stone celebrated his England call-up with two wickets as promotion-chasing Warwickshire turned the screw against Sussex at Hove.

After being bowled out for 440, Keith Barker’s three-wicket burst with the new ball left Sussex, a batsman down because of opener Tom Haines’ ankle injury, reeling on 14 for 3.

Luke Wells and Michael Burgess effected a recovery of sorts, adding 72 before Stone, whose first over had cost 12 runs, hit back with wickets in successive overs.

Burgess, who had hit nine fours in his 46, was beaten for pace and lost his off stump then Wells (26) was strangled down the leg side. That wicket may have been a tad fortunate but in a five-over spell there were glimpses of the raw pace that have attracted the England selectors.

Stone’s burst left Sussex 87 for 5 and a long way off the follow-on target of 291 but skipper Ben Brown and David Wiese counter-attacked impressively thereafter.

Wiese made a 62-ball half-century and Brown his seventh of the season in 67 deliveries with both hitting seven fours. By stumps they had 137 in 24 overs to take their side to 224 for 5, still 216 behind.

But Warwickshire are still handily placed to force the victory that would secure promotion and set up a title decider against Kent at Edgbaston next week.

They would have been in an even better position had it not been for an afternoon collapse which saw them lose six wickets for 19 runs, four of them to Jofra Archer who ripped through the tail by taking the last four wickets in 11 balls.

Warwickshire lost Ian Bell and Jonathan Trott before lunch, but not before both had improved on their outstanding individual records against Sussex.

Bell’s 112 took his aggregate against the county to 1518 runs at an average of 65. The pair extended their third wicket stand to 230 – a new Warwickshire record against Sussex at Hove – before Bell, who had faced 260 balls and hit one six and 11 fours, was leg before sweeping Danny Briggs.

Trott will retire next week with 1879 runs against Sussex, nearly 700 runs more than he has made against any other county, after scoring 124, his seventh hundred against them with power to add if he has to bat again here. Trott eventually clipped a ball from Wiese to mid-wicket and after Sam Hain (53) shouldered arms to lose his off stump to Ollie Robinson the innings went into a tailspin.

Tim Ambrose (14) was also leg before sweeping Briggs before Archer returned to the attack and, with a strong wind behind him, swept away the tail. Barker (6) lost his off stump, Stone fell in similar fashion for a fifth-ball duck and in his next over Chris Wright (10) was bowled and Ryan Sidebottom leg before two balls later. After Bell’s dismissal Warwickshire had lost eight wickets for 108.

Briggs was promoted from No.11 to open but he had no answer to left-armer Barker, bowling round the wicket and angling the ball into the stumps. Phil Salt and Harry Finch both made ducks and Briggs 12 with all three were trapped in the crease.

Burgess and Wells counter-attacked impressively before Stone’s double strike. The 24-year-old returned for a second spell down the slope before stumps but Wiese and Brown were well set by then with Wiese passing 5000 first-class runs in his unbeaten 66.

Day One – Close of Play

Ian Bell and Jonathan Trott enjoyed another profitable day against Sussex to put second division leaders Warwickshire in a strong position after day one of their Specsavers County Championship match at Hove.

Bell scored his fifth Championship hundred against the county and Trott is in sight of his sixth against Sussex in his final away game before retirement. Together they helped Warwickshire reach 308 for 2 at stumps. Bell will resume on 108 and Trott 86 after they shared 206 in 68 overs for the third wicket.

A draw would seal an immediate return to the top flight with a game to spare for Warwickshire and Bell and Trott made sure they didn’t waste the advantage of winning the toss and batting first on a slow pitch expected to turn later on.

Dom Sibley and Will Rhodes laid solid foundations with a stand of 96 for the first wicket and although both fell just before lunch that proved to be the most productive part of the day for Sussex’s seam attack who were blunted by a combination of the pitch and Bell and Trott’s enduring excellence.

They came together Sibley and Rhodes had departed in the space of 15 balls. Sibley (44) was rightly furious with himself when he squandered a good start by picking out mid-wicket after coming down the pitch to drive left-arm spinner Danny Briggs only to get a thick inside edge.

Rhodes played on to David Wiese and lost his leg bail shortly after reaching his seventh half-century of the season but that was as good as it got for Sussex, who used seven bowlers trying to part Bell and Trott including medium-pacer Tom Haines, who was struck for six by Bell before limping off with an ankle injury.

Leg-spinner Luke Wells, one of seven bowlers used, got a couple of deliveries to turn and Sussex took the new ball immediately it became available but Bell and Trott rarely played a false shot, never mind offering a chance, on a placid surface.

Bell reached his fifth Championship century of the season by driving Chris Jordan to the cover boundary for his 11th boundary and by the close he had batted for just over four hours and faced 235 balls.

It was his 57th first-class hundred and he became only the second batsman this season after Surrey’s Rory Burns to reach 1,000 Championship runs when he reached 106.

Trott has so far hit ten fours from 183 balls faces in a shade under four hours at the crease.
Briggs and Wells sent down 31 overs of spin between them but it was a tough day for Sussex, who need to win this game and beat Northamptonshire next week to have any chance of sneaking into the top two.

Troughton: "We are 1-0 up"

Warwickshire face Sussex at Hove tomorrow knowing that a win or draw against their promotion rivals would secure their promotion back to the Specsavers County Championship Division One at the first attempt.

The Bears sit 33 points ahead of third-placed Sussex having won eight of 12 championship games, including three of the last four inside three days.

Nobody is getting ahead of themselves. We looked at the last six matches as a Test series which we needed to win and we are on top in that.

Jim Troughton

They are in a strong position but two of the toughest tests remain – Sussex away then second-placed Kent, who have won nine of their 12 games, at Edgbaston.

The Bears would love to seal promotion this week to lift the pressure for that final match – and as his team pressures for the mouth-watering denouement to the season, Warwickshire first-team coach Jim Troughton paid tribute to his players and, in particular, captain Jeetan Patel.

“Jeets has led from the front as always,” Troughton said. “As a coaching staff we have tried to take all the pressure we can off him off the field, allowing him to concentrating on leading and performing on the field, and he has got 50 wickets yet again and bowled as well as ever. He takes a lot of credit for driving the team forward.

“Looking at some of the cricket the guys have played this year, and the way Jeets has led them, it would be really nice to see them lift a trophy as well as win promotion. But we know we have still got a lot of hard work to do, firstly against a very good Sussex side.

“Nobody is getting ahead of themselves. We looked at the last six matches as a Test series which we needed to win and we are on top in that. Then we broke that down into the last three as a three-match series. If we win that mini-series we will be in a good place – and we are 1-0 up.”

Warwickshire will face Sussex without England all-rounder Chris Woakes who has been made unavailable for the huge game by the England and Wales Cricket Board. Ryan Sidebottom and Olly Hannon-Dalby head the contenders to come in and Troughton is relaxed about his selection options with his team having outplayed the opposition in all departments in three of the last four games.

“The bowlers have taken 20 wickets in a lot of games this season and deserve a lot of credit,” the coach said, “but I have been especially pleased with the batting in the last couple of games. Against Durham and Leicestershire, in cloudy conditions, batting was not easy but we scored enough runs to force winning positions.

“To get maximum points at Leicester, even down to scoring at six an over for the last 50 runs, was a really good effort. For Dom Sibley and Will Rhodes to get us past the opposition with all ten wickets intact was fantastic. Dom batted really well and has got a big opportunity now. He has had an average season by his standards but he’s got two centuries and now he has potentially four innings to try to get a couple more which would make it a very good season.”

Breaking records at Hove in the year 2000

When Dougie Brown went into bat against Sussex on the second afternoon of the championship match at Hove in early May 2000, the game was right in the balance.

As can be the case beside the seaside at lovely Hove, batsmen had found life tricky against a swinging ball.

To put on a record partnership with Ash was really special because we travelled together and roomed together.

Dougie Brown

Sussex chose to bat but managed only 224 all out as Alan Richardson took four wickets, Brown three and Ed Giddins two. The Bears’ reply then didn’t start well against a potent seam attack of Jason Lewry, Mark Robinson, James Kirtley and Robin Martin-Jenkins. Nick Knight (38 in three hours 14 minutes), Michael Powell and Dominic Ostler were uprooted and Trevor Penney and Neil Smith had just been dismissed in the same over by Robinson when Brown went in to join David Hemp at 158 for five.

When Brown was dismissed a day later, it triggered the declaration – at 548 for seven.

The all-rounder had made 203, his maiden double century, from 335 balls in six hours 47 minutes, first shoring up the innings then climbing into counter-attack, striking 30 fours.

Brown added 101 with Hemp (90) but that was just the starter. Then came a dazzling partnership of 289, a Bears seventh-wicket record, with fellow all-rounder and close pal Ashley Giles who struck 128 not out, his maiden century.

More than once during his excellent career Brown found Hove a happy hunting ground. In the last match of 2002, Bob Woolmer’s last game in charge, it was Brown’s spectacular unbeaten 79 (91 balls, five fours, five sixes) which saw the Bears home to a sensational win as they chased down a target of 401 to win by three wickets.

That was an amazing day – but the Bears legend, who now coaches the United Arab Emirates team, reflects on the 2000 game as special.

“It is a great memory for me,” Brown said. “To put on a record partnership with Ash was really special because we travelled together and roomed together. So for us to go out there and both get our career-bests in the same innings, and set up a win for the Bears – well, you couldn’t write a better script.

“Conditions changed a little bit during the game which helped us. The ball nibbled around a bit early on so we bowled them out quite cheaply but then the pitch flattened out. Hempy batted really well to give us a platform and then Ash and I got a partnership going.

“I started timing the ball and Ash got the bit between his teeth and we just kept going. Sussex had a good attack but batting conditions improved and we just cracked on, not trying to outdo each other but geeing each other up and having fun.

“It was my only double-century, but strangely I can’t remember much about the second hundred. I do remember getting out stumped attacking the part-time spinner, Toby Pierce, just before lunch because I thought we were going to declare at lunch. Then when I got back to the pavilion Neil Smith, who was captain, said we would have batted on for an hour after lunch. So I would have had a chance to get a really big score!”

Brown’s wicket proved to be one of only three in first-class cricket for Pierce but the part-time twirler’s pleasure didn’t last long. Opening the batting second time round he soon fell to Richardson before three wickets apiece from Smith, Giles and Ed Giddins sped Sussex to defeat by an innings and 47 runs.

Brown bowled only seven overs as his team-mates did the damage. His work was done – 203 runs towards the more than 13,000 he would score in all formats, to add to almost 1,000 wickets, in his fantastic career.
And the instrument that scored them remains in Brown’s possession to this day.

“I’ve still got the bat that I used in that innings,” he said. “It’s in the downstairs toilet.”

A humble resting place for a piece of Bears history…

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