Championship Report: Warwickshire v Sussex
Day Four: Close of play
David Wiese and Olly Stone took the individual honours as Warwickshire and Sussex had to settle for bonus points from a rain-affected draw in their opening Specsavers County Championship Division Two fixture of the season at Edgbaston.
Sussex all-rounder Wiese’s hit the first championship century of the season, a cleanly-hit 106 (105 balls, 14 fours, three sixes), as his side replied to 299 with 374 all out.
He eventually fell to Stone, the seventh of eight victims for the former Northamptonshire fast-bowler who ended with a career-best 22.5-4-80-8 on his home championship debut for Warwickshire.
Sussex captain Ben Brown will also take plenty from the game. His first innings as club captain brought an assured 91 (174 balls, eight fours) against a Warwickshire attack which, Stone apart, looked understandably rusty having not had a single full day in the field in their pre-season schedule due to rain.
For the game as a contest, however, there was no way out of the cul-de-sac up which it was forced by the loss of 150 overs, including the entire first day, to the weather. Warwickshire closed on 87 for three in their second innings.
After Sussex resumed on the final morning on 194 for six, Ollie Robinson soon edged Keith Barker behind but Brown and Wiese helped themselves to important early-season time at the crease in a partnership of 155 in 30 overs.
Wiese batted forcefully from the off, hitting cleanly on his way to three figures in 91 balls – his century before lunch all the more creditable when compared to the batting travails of most counties in the opening round of matches around the country.
Stone, having taken the first six wickets on the third day, then returned to add the last two, trapping Wiese in front and bowling Ishant Sharma who, having just top-edged a six, attacked again and this time missed.
Sharma, making his Sussex debut, then seized the chance to stretch his legs in the last session of the match. After Robinson knocked out Will Rhodes’ off-stump, Sharma charged in from the Pavilion End during a pacy spell which brought him the wickets of Ian Bell, caught behind, and Jonathan Trott, lbw.
Dominic Sibley stilled any Warwickshire nerves though with an steady unbeaten 42 (89 balls) to see the game out.
Day Three: Close of play
Olly Stone’s home Specsavers County Championship debut for Warwickshire has been a while coming but the 24-year-old seized the moment in spectacular fashion with a six-wicket blast against Sussex at Edgbaston.
In reply to the home side’s 299, Sussex closed a rain-affected third day on 194 for six with Stone’s figures 13-1-52-6.
The fast-bowler, who signed for Warwickshire from Northamptonshire in 2016, spent his first year at Edgbaston in rehab from major knee surgery but the lay-off has done nothing to diminish his pace and potency, judging by his demolition of Sussex’s top six.
His excellence is likely to have arrived in a stale-mate, however, in this Division Two opener in Birmingham. Following the loss of 150 overs to the weather in the first three days, a draw surely beckons.
After resuming on the third morning on 284 for nine, Warwickshire ended one run short of a third batting point. Tim Ambrose (81, 116 balls, ten fours) and Chris Wright (27 not out, 80 balls, four fours) took their tenth-wicket stand to 77 in 22 overs before the former nicked a superb leg-cutter from Ishant Sharma. Sharma, making his Sussex debut, ended with three for 53 and David Wiese four for 56.
In reply, Sussex advanced to 30 without loss, Philip Salt launching their reply with a crisp 29 (35 balls, four fours), before Stone came on and dismissed Salt with his second ball, leading-edged to point.
Then came a sensational burst of four for 11 in 13 balls from the Norfolk-born player. Stiaan van Zyl, Luke Wells and Luke Wright (first ball) edged behind and Harry Finch top-edged a pull straight upwards and watched it land in the hands of short-leg Sam Hain.
Sixth-wicket pair Ben Brown and Michael Burgess executed a fightback with a stand of 78 in 18 overs before Stone returned to end Burgess’s forceful innings (48, 45 balls nine fours) via a fourth catch for wicketkeeper Tim Ambrose.
Brown, in his first championship innings as Sussex skipper, defied impressively and was still unbeaten on 43 (89 balls, five fours) at the close. With solid support from Ollie Robinson, he skilfully negotiated an awkward late eight-over session which started at 6.10pm.
A draw beckons – but so too does history for Stone if he is fast out of the blocks on the last morning. He could become only the fourth player, after Harry Howell, Eric Hollies and Jack Bannister, to take an all-ten for Warwickshire in first-class cricket.
Tim Ambrose and Ian Bell rose above the collective rust with polished half-centuries as Warwickshire and Sussex belatedly launched their Specsavers County Championship season at Edgbaston.
When the match finally started, the first four sessions having been lost to the weather, Sussex eagerly took up the option to bowl but the home side reached 284 for nine – heady heights on a day of desperate batting travails elsewhere in Division Two.
With both sides starved of match practice after the rain-ravaged pre-season, batsmen and bowlers alike were clearly feeling their way into the season.
Of the batsmen, only Ambrose (76 not out, 106 balls, ten fours) and Bell (70, 91 balls, 14 fours) found any fluency. For others it was a case of cobbling together runs against a Sussex attack which, led by David Wiese (four for 50) delivered its share of good balls without the consistency of performance that comes with regular cricket.
Both sides have begun the campaign with new captains – Jeetan Patel and Ben Brown – and the latter did not hesitate to give his bowlers first use of damp conditions after a rain-haunted week.
With Jofra Archer away on IPL duty, Sussex have shored up their seam attack by signing Ishant Sharma and the Indian star took just 18 balls to open his account when Will Rhodes, making his Warwickshire championship debut, edged into the slips. Five balls later, Dom Sibley tickled a rising ball from Ollie Robinson to the wicketkeeper and the home side was 20 for two.
Bell and Jonathan Trott added 60 in 17 overs before the latter edged an excellent delivery from Wiese to first slip. Sharma trapped Adam Hose lbw and Sam Hain was adjudged lbw, playing no shot, to Wiese but Bell, fresh from a century against Durham MCCU, was in fine touch, advancing to 50 from 66 balls with ten fours.
On 56 at tea, he resumed with three gorgeous off-side boundaries in quick succession to pass his career-average against Sussex (62.76). It was a surprise to all when his next attempt to pierce the offside field sent a catch to point off Wiese.
Former Sussex player Ambrose and Keith Barker dug in to add 52 in 16 overs before Stuart Whittingham induced edges from Barker and Patel in quick succession. Wiese returned to remove Olly Stone courtesy of a brilliant catch at second slip by Harry Finch. That was 220 for nine but Sussex were frustrated by last pair Ambrose and Chris Wright (17 not out from 70 balls) who added an unbroken 62 in 19 overs as the shadows lengthened in glorious evening sunshine.
Tim Ambrose said: “We scrapped hard and I think we got into a pretty good position at the end of the day. Sussex bowled well all day and made it difficult for us but the guys battled hard and Ian Bell was just different class. To play like that in those conditions was just amazing.
“I was pleased to get some runs. I had a bit of luck early on when I was dropped on five but you need that luck sometimes and it was good to scrap it through the last session. Chris Wright faced 70 balls and batted fantastically well and I love adding important runs with the bowlers because I know hard they work at their batting and the guys down the order have contributed a lot of good runs to us over the years.”
The 2018 season was kept on hold for Warwickshire and Sussex as rain washed out the opening day of their Specsavers County Championship match at Division Two at Edgbaston.
Edgbaston has not had a dry day this week so the arrival of further steady rain through Thursday night into Friday morning left the ground in a saturated state.
At a 3pm inspection, umpires Steve O’Shaughnessy and Paul Pollard decided that the outfield would remain too wet for there to be any cricket today.