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Tim Wigmore at Hove
May 1, 2013
Warwickshire 276 for 4 (Chopra 87, Trott 87*) v Sussex
When someone next decries the worth of county cricket, it should offer this day as a snapshot of its virtues. As if sun, deckchairs and a five-day beer festival weren't enough, there was also the cricket at Hove to be enjoyed, featuring an England spinner with 164 Test wickets against two of the most reassuring sights in England's Test batting line-up - and another man who might, in time, join them there.
Jonathan Trott is often depicted as a dour Mr Dependable, but his unbeaten 87 included several shots that, had they come from any other bat, would have elicited purrs. A respectable off-stump delivery from Andrew Miller was emphatically dispatched over long on for six; the next ball, a refined late cut went to the boundary too. It was not a sight that Sussex's skipper Ed Joyce, who had shelled a hard, but eminently catchable, chance in the slips when Trott had 1, would have relished.
Trott had a familiar ally in a 131-run stand with Ian Bell, who was captaining Warwickshire in place of Jim Troughton, missing with a shoulder injury. Grown men may still have nightmares about Bell's shot first ball in Ahmedabad - caught at mid-off attempting to harrumph the ball out of the ground - but it would seem that Bell is not one of them: he shimmied down the wicket to his seventh ball, from Chris Nash's offspin and lofted him over mid-on for four. There were a few further examples of graceful footwork later against Monty Panesar.
While Bell and Trott are two Test batsmen of the highest order, it was to Varun Chopra's great credit that he looked barely less assured at the crease. Playing attractively, especially on the offside, it was a matter of considerable surprise when Chopra fell for 87 attempting to cut Chris Nash's useful offspin, and was so denied a century to go with his match-saving effort at Taunton last week. But he had still made his mark, becoming the first man to pass 500 runs for the season, and must have eyes on the batting Holy Grail of a thousand before the end of May.
Nick Compton, the man who almost passed that landmark last season, is now an established Test player, and it looks eminently possible that Chopra, 25, will become one too: an extra cover drive off Panesar was timed with the crispness one would associate with an international player. There are legitimate questions over whether elements of Chopra's game - principally his tendency to play with his bat away from his body and occasional dalliances with driving uppishly - would be a hindrance at Test level, but if he continues to score with such proficiency an opportunity will be forthcoming.
While a knee injury cost Sussex their premier fast bowler, Australian Steve Magoffin, Chopra still had to encounter a highly disciplined attack: even on a flat track in near-perfect batting conditions, Sussex limited Warwickshire to under three runs an over.
Panesar was typically probing but endured a disappointing day, seldom threatening his England team-mates and, attempting to find the rough outside legstump, even delivering two leg side wides in one over. He has now claimed only one wicket for 238 runs so far this season.
That Sussex ended on near-parity, despite the serenity with which England's Test batsmen played, owed to Chris Jordan. Jordan may have begun his Sussex career with 6 for 48 at Leeds but, if anything, he was even more admirable here, consistently hostile throughout the day. A fiery spell with the second new ball earned the rare distinction of claiming Bell fending off a short ball and he promptly claimed nightwatchman Chris Wright too. Bell later said "it's certainly a different game if you hit the pitch that bit harder", suggesting that Warwickshire intend to replicate the method that earned Jordan his success.
Jordan should have had another wicket, too, but Mike Yardy shelled Tim Ambrose in the slips in the day's final over. No one begrudged him a quick visit to the beer festival after play.
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