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Tim Wigmore at Hove
May 3, 2013
Sussex 416 for 7 (Wells 96, Brown 82*, Rankin 3-60) trail Warwickshire 453 by 37 runs
Warwickshire's coach Dougie Brown has pinned the blame firmly on the Hove pitch for a hard-fought game which seems to be heading inexorably towards stalemate.
"For people who maybe don't quite understand the game, they're probably wondering why we're bleating on about the pitch and stuff but in fairness is that a first-class pitch?" Brpwn asked "I would doubt it to be honest. We always thought the pitch would at some stage deteriorate. That might be at some time next month."
"It just killed the game completely. There's nothing in there for anybody, batters included. Speaking to our batters it's actually almost impossible to get the ball off the square. How you're ever going to get a result on surfaces like this I just do not know, particularly when you use a heavy roller as well and deaden it even further.
"I just feel sorry for the people who've come to watch two very, very strong sides playing. What's happened is the conditions haven't really allowed for entertaining cricket.
"It'd be a bit like, in football terms, going out to watch some of the best teams playing and playing on grass that was a foot long. You can't apply your skills like you could do on any normal occasion so that's been disappointing. I don't know about docking points or whatever, that's not for me to say."
And it was hard to argue with Brown's assessment at the end of another day that, despite the high calibre of players on display, seldom rose above the turgid. It was just as well that the beer festival brought over 20 different ales - more than the 17 wickets to fall so far - to enjoy.
The only bowler to rise above the conditions was Boyd Rankin. While Chris Wright displayed perseverance, and Chris Woakes parsimony, Rankin was comfortably the most threatening of Warwickshire's quick bowlers and deserved more than the three wickets he snared.
During one over in the morning session, he might have had a hat-trick. Luke Wells was denied a century by a yorker that made a wreckage of the stumps he protects with such care; Matt Prior was beaten for pace and could have fallen lbw first ball; and Ed Joyce was dropped by Tim Ambrose from a legside bouncer.
Rankin retired from Ireland duty last year and has declared his ambition to try and pursue a Test career with England. That must be considered very unlikely - he is nearly 29 and has a bad record with injuries (he was here returning from ten weeks out with a stress reaction in his foot) - but when he bowls with the hostility and searing bounce he showed here, it doesn't seem inconceivable that England could show interest in Rankin as a reserve, tall impact quick bowler, behind Steven Finn and Chris Tremlett.
Brown certainly thinks it is possible: "Obviously going out to Australia, the conditions out there would suit him immensely. He's a big tall lad - 6ft 8in - he bowls very fast, he bowls aggressively and when he's on form there's very few bounce bowlers in world cricket better than him."
Rankin can do subtlety too, varying his angle by switching between over and around the wicket and using his yorker as an occasional weapon of destruction, as Wells could attest to.
After his early morning spell, it fell to Matt Prior to awaken spectators from their happy slumbers in the deckchairs. Three crunching drives off four Wright deliveries oozed purpose, but Wright soon had Prior caught by his friend and onetime Sussex colleague Tim Ambrose to a ball that moved late. And, to judge by the quality with which Ben Brown cut the ball in his unbeaten 82, another Sussex wicket keeper could one day also interest the ECB.
For now, their attentions are better turned to the merits of reinstating the heavy roller - a measure designed to mimic Test match conditions but one that risks undermining the pleasures of picturesque county grounds like Hove.
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