Clarke inspires Warwickshire to bonus haul
Warwickshire 400 for 8 dec (Clarke 110*) drew with Sussex 191 (Patel 5-77)
The thing with bonus points is that you never know when they might come in handy. Nottinghamshire proved it emphatically a couple of years ago when six on the last day of a rain-wrecked match against Lancashire gave them a Championship title that looked to have slipped through their grasp.
So Warwickshire might look back on the maximum eight bonus points gained from an otherwise dead day at Edgbaston as enormously significant should the race for this year's title come down to similar margins. With the extra three for a draw, they emerge from this latest soggy round of matches as Division One leaders, one point ahead of Nottinghamshire, with a game in hand. Remember, too, that they meet Nottinghamshire twice in the final three rounds.
Not that you could call this a dead day, in any event, given the exhilarating way in which Warwickshire not only chased, but chased successfully, a five-point maximum with the bat, and then bowled out Sussex for 191 in 46.1 overs. Rikki Clarke made an unbeaten 110 from 105 balls and then took 3 for 19 to leave no doubt over who was Man of the Match, Jeetan Patel's 5 for 77 notwithstanding. The scorecard may say 'match drawn' but, in the words of their captain, Jim Troughton, to Warwickshire it felt like a win.
"I was tremendously impressed with the way the players performed after so much white ball cricket," Troughton said. "It feels like a win. We looked to get 400, we looked to get nine wickets as well, and we bowled them out for good measure."
The performance with the bat smacked in particular of a side rippling with self-belief. At the start they were 175 for 3 from 65 overs, the point at which they were marooned last Thursday when the rain began, and yet wound up with 400 for 8 from 109.2.
Mainly it was down to Clarke, who is so capable of high-speed destruction you wonder why he is not back on the England radar, at least for the one-day side. It is six years now since he last played yet is performing as well as he ever has. Realistically, you supposed Warwickshire might have a sniff of four batting points, if they pushed hard, but Clarke was of a mind to look beyond that, even, and made the improbable possible.
Warwickshire were in the 89th over by the time they notched their second point and a lunchtime score of 293 for 6 from 96 overs still suggested four points was the most they could expect, a thought reinforced when Chris Woakes, another big hitter, fell for 12 soon afterwards, playing across the line to Luke Wright.
Until then, Troughton's return to form with the bat had looked as good as anything they would take from the day. The captain, who has been woefully short of runs, exceeded his aggregate from nine previous Championship innings this season when he reached 51. Though he was clearly cross with himself when he was caught at first slip, slashing at a ball from James Anyon to be out for 81, his disappointment at missing the opportunity to complete only his second Championship hundred in three seasons should not negate the boost to his confidence that these overdue runs will surely provide.
But after Woakes went - and with significant help from Keith Barker, who hit 34 off 31 balls - Clarke transformed the picture, advancing from 71 to 105 in just 16 deliveries, culminating in one extraordinary over against the offspin of Chris Nash that yielded 20 on its own, including a six over the bowler's head that took him into three figures. It left Warwickshire with only four to get from two overs to reach 400 inside 110 overs and when Patel scooped a ball from Magoffin over the slip area for four the job was done.
At this point, Warwickshire would have been content enough to take eight points from the match and trail Nottinghamshire by just two but Sussex had an interest in trying for at least one point with the bat and this played into the home side's hands.
Sussex made a flying start as Woakes and Barker struggled for early accuracy and were 26 without loss after only three overs when Woakes made a fortunate breakthrough when Ed Joyce tickled one down the leg side. Then Nash was caught at slip as Patel made his first incision.
Luke Wells and Murray Goodwin steered Sussex back to an even keel but there was no keeping Clarke out of the game. Introduced at 87 for 2 he struck with his second ball, aided by a fine catch by William Porterfield, to remove Goodwin and claim a first bowling point. It seemed to have a galvanising effect on Warwickshire's mood in the field, which became bouncier still when Matt Prior then drove at Patel rather lavishly and was caught at mid-on.
Ian Bell, fielding at midwicket, missed a chance when Wells was 24 but took another one with the Sussex player only two runs better off to give Clarke his second wicket, which was quickly followed by a third as Darren Maddy took a brilliant, one-handed catch diving to his left at second slip to remove Michael Yardy.
With the second bowling point in the bag, Warwickshire had the bit between their teeth and Sussex, obligingly, never gave up their pursuit of a batting point. After Patel had claimed his third victim as Naved Arif nudged one to slip, Luke Wright pulled Chris Wright straight to deep point and Warwickshire celebrated as if they had won when James Anyon was leg before. A fifth success for Patel was simply a bonus.
Troughton said that setting up a positive result had been discussed. "It would have been nice to have got that bit further ahead with a win and we did talk about contriving something," he said. "But what they were looking was not really close to what we were looking at.
"In any case, on the balance of things we were lucky to get on the park at all, otherwise we would have been walking away with just three points.
"We know what is to come later in the season but our way has just been to think about winning the next ball, the next over, the next session. We haven't thought about where we are in the league."