Warwickshire v Sussex, Edgbaston, 1st day August 28, 2013

Chambers highlights demand on resources

Sussex 278 for 7 (Wells 65, Nash 59, Chambers 3-51) v Warwickshire

It is, perhaps, a sign of the times that, just as the County Championship season should be reaching a peak, the demands on its resources are at their greatest.

Over the next couple of weeks, teams vying for the title or fighting to avoid promotion and relegation will lose players to England, Ireland and Scotland. Other players will be rested after the rigours of international campaigns. Few of the Ashes-winning squad will make another appearance in the county game this year.

All of that is understandable. The England team pays the bills for the county and the recreational game and it is entirely reasonable to demand the players are used and rested as the team management see fit. Equally, it is quite appropriate for Ireland and Scotland to call upon their best players as they seek to progress in world cricket.

But there is a downside. The endless withdrawals - be they for Lions game or international fixtures - that stretch through the season, not only threaten the integrity of the premier domestic competition, but threaten to drive a wedge between the international game and the county game. And if that happens, the difficulty of county players taking the step-up to international cricket will grow.

There was a time such withdrawals were masked by the presence of experienced, older players or strong overseas or Kolpak registrations. But now, with young player incentives and tougher work permit criteria, that depth has been diminished.

With such factors combining, the dilution of the county game is both obvious and dangerous. It may well, in time, return to bite the England set-up. You could construct a strong argument to suggest it was one of the key mistakes made in Australian cricket a decade or so ago.

Certainly Warwickshire are a shadow of the team that won the County Championship title last season. As well as having lost seven players to various England squads at some stage of the season (Ian Bell, Jonathan Trott, Chris Woakes, Varun Chopra, Boyd Rankin, Chris Wright and Keith Barker, four of which are absent from this match) they have lost Freddie Coleman (to Scotland) and William Porterfield (to Ireland).

In this game, they are further weakened by injuries. Their captain, Jim Troughton (back) is absent, two of their leading allrounders, Rikki Clarke (ankle) and Woakes (who hurt his thigh batting for England) are absent, several seamers - such as Oliver Hannon-Dalby, Wright, Richard Jones, who has joined on-loan despite carrying an injury - are absent as are two spinners in Chris Metters (who has been released due to injury) and Paul Best. As a result, their attack in this game consisted of a 20-year-old - Tom Milns - and two other seamers - Recordo Gordon and Maurice Chambers - with two first-class wickets between them this season.

But such setbacks offer opportunity. In this game, Warwickshire drafted in Chambers, unwanted at Essex, on loan in a deal that stretches to the end of the season. Chambers, a 25-year-old longer on talent than achievement at this stage of his career, bowled with impressive pace and decent skill and discipline to suggest he may be able to persuade another county to invest in him. He will hope to follow the path of former team-mate Wright, who benefitted considerably from leaving Chelmsford and working with former Essex bowling coach Graeme Welch, who is now at Edgbaston. At present, Warwickshire are interested more in finding a solution to their availability crisis and have looked little further ahead than that.

But they have opened talks with unsettled Somerset keeper, Jos Buttler. They are one of three clubs to have made an approach for the player and are likely to have offered him the chance to keep in all white-ball cricket if he joins. The difficult economic times are likely to result in far less movement in this year's close-season than has been the case in the previous two or three years.

It appeared for the first half of the day that Sussex would take full advantage of Warwickshire's weaknesses and winning an important toss on a flat, dry pitch. Though they played and missed a few times, Chris Nash and Luke Wells put together a composed opening stand of 121 taking full toll of anything straying in line or length and of an unusually short boundary. Indeed, with Warwickshire struggling for pitches after a busy season, they were required to gain special dispensation for the 49-yard boundary on the Eric Hollies Stand side of the ground. Wells, tall and upright, was strong on the drive, while Nash, dropped by Jeetan Patel on 24 at slip off Gordon, cut particularly well.

But Sussex squandered much of their hard work. After Nash played slightly across one, Sussex subsequently lost 6 for 39 runs in 21 overs as their middle-order surrendered their wickets in an array of soft, impatient strokes.

If Michael Yardy, undone by late swing, was the victim of a fine delivery, Wells, caught at mid-on as he mis-timed a flick to the leg side, and Rory Hamilton-Brown, caught at short mid-on at he skipped down the wicket and attempted to drive, had less excuse. Ed Joyce fell to a loose drive at a wide ball, Matt Machan top-edged a pull and Ben Brown, caught on the crease, looked as if he were beaten for pace.

At that stage it appeared Sussex, who are still outside contenders for the Championship title, might struggle to gain even a couple of batting bonus points. But Chris Jordan, perhaps the signing of the season, and Will Beer, demonstrated the patience and determination that so many of their top-order colleagues failed to exhibit, in adding 83 unbeaten runs for the eighth wicket before stumps. It was Jordan's second half-century of the campaign, to complement his 51 Championship wickets.

The Warwickshire attack, green as it was, were impressively tight and, in Chambers and Gordon, had bowlers of considerable pace. The pitch may well provide help to spin later in the game, presenting quite an opportunity for Will Beer and, perhaps, highlighting the absence of Monty Panesar for Sussex.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • andy on August 29, 2013, 11:33 GMT

    According to Michael Vaughn tere should be a partial refund for those who go to see England play T20 with many 'stars' missing. Have to say I have not gone to see warwickshire for several weeks - why pay £20 to see a near second team on some occasions. As to all these resources, I sometimes think it is better only to have mediocre players - at least they are playing and not absent like the international guys. How can you have a team ethic when the 'team' is different every week. What on earth is the point of the Lions playing Bangladesh A, giving up hard fought (or used to be) county 1st division to face sub club standard bowlers under the 'international' heading. The county who wins will be the one who has suffered the least from such disruption, not necessarily the best.

  • Graem on August 29, 2013, 9:17 GMT

    It is interesting that Warwickshire chose to play Sussex on a pitch at the very end of their square. It is also interesting that there seems to be a lack of pace in the pitch; Ambrose stood up to the stumps for the likes of Barker and three Sussex batters were dismissed to miss-timed shots. There were also occasions when leading edges nearly resulted in dismissals. you would have to wonder if Warwickshire chose to play on such a slow, rarely used pitch because they were frightened of exposing their side to the Sussex pace attack.

  • Graem on August 29, 2013, 8:55 GMT

    Warwickshire have a lot of resources and can afford to employ a large squad and then add to it with loans. Other counties don't have the same advantages. I wonder if those other counties are a little more careful when it comes to managing those resources than Warwickshire.

  • Dummy4 on August 28, 2013, 22:27 GMT

    Good luck Maurice Chambers. Hopefully you can fulfil your potential at another county.

  • Rob on August 28, 2013, 21:41 GMT

    Very valid points indeed about the endless international withdrawals. Before long surely a county will contest these sometimes spurious withdrawals. No issue with test matches taking precedence but for county matches to have real meaning the never ending removal of players for the Lions, "A" matches, Scotland and Ireland fixtures etc cannot carry on. Would the solution be to have fixed international windows as in the Premier League football ? Reduce the county workload a little and this would be quite possible.

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