Warwickshire v Sussex, Edgbaston, 4th day August 31, 2013

Brown condemns 'farcical' draw


Sussex 311 (Wells 65, Jordan 61, Nash 59, Chamber 5-68) and 394 for 9 dec (Hamilton-Brown 75, Joyce 68) drew with Warwickshire 394 (Evans 137, Patel 78*, Ambrose 61, Magoffin 5-87)

If Warwickshire, or more realistically Sussex, do end up missing out on the Championship title by a handful of points, they may well reflect on this match as the defining moment of their campaign.

In a situation described as "farcical" by Warwickshire's director of cricket, Dougie Brown, this match ended with third-rate bowlers bowling to tail-end batsmen as the sides could not agree a fair fourth-innings target. It was the sort of day that gives county cricket a bad name.

Who you blame probably depends on which team you support. Warwickshire supporters were upset that Sussex failed to declare, but Sussex supporters could claim, quite reasonably, that on such a flat wicket, with such a short boundary and without a credible spin threat, such a scenario would have left them on a hiding to nothing. And Warwickshire could have engineered a target by serving up some 'declaration bowling'. They declined to do so.

Besides, this result is not quite the end of Sussex's Championship hopes. With three games left, they trail the leaders, Yorkshire, by 29 points. Crucially, all three of their remaining games are against the top two sides; two against Durham and one against Yorkshire. By drawing this game, they feel they have all but ended Warwickshire's hopes - they are 46 points off the top of the table - and left "a three-horse race" for the title in the words of their cricket manager, Mark Robinson.

Still, the manner in which the game ebbed out its life left a sour taste in several mouths. Warwickshire utilised nine bowlers as their aim turned more to saving energy for games to come and, while Ian Westwood's first first-class wicket since 2009 clearly gave him considerable joy, it was not shared by the glum spectators who stayed in the hope that a run chase simply had to come sooner or later.

"We did approach the subject," Brown said. "But Sussex weren't interested at all. It's quite surprising, really. If we'd been in that position, I'd like to think we would have tried to win. Even if they had set us 260 in 40 overs we would have had a go."

Robinson countered: "It wasn't a wicket that was good for cricket. It was slow, there was a 45-yard [actually 49] boundary and we have a young spinner, so it would have been very hard to set a declaration. Early chats between the teams didn't go well and it seemed anything we agreed would be a bit one-sided."

Robinson also accepted that Sussex had squandered their chances to win the game on the first couple of days. "We went from 156-1 to 311 all out," he said. "And then we dropped Laurie Evans before he had 50. We missed opportunities and we didn't back up our seamers, who were exceptional.

"We're outsiders for the title now, but it's a three-horse race now and, if Warwickshire had won, it would have been a four-horse race."

This was a scenario that also raised new questions about the return of the heavy roller in Championship cricket. Combined with the dry summer, the use of the heavy roller - banned from the start of games for the last three seasons before this - has taken much of the life out of pitches. While the logic for its return - that international cricket is played on flat tracks - is sound, pitches as slow as this serve little purpose for anything. Both Brown and Robinson mentioned as much in their post-game conversations.

There were still some admirable performances here. Rory Hamilton-Brown, who may well not have played had Luke Wright been available, provided a welcome reminder of his undoubted talent with a selfless half-century that appeared to preface a declaration and Jeetan Patel passed 50 Championship wickets in the season to underline his value to Warwickshire. Brown described him as "one of the best offspinners in the world at the moment" afterwards.

Both teams have some tricky challenges ahead. While Warwickshire hope that Chris Woakes and Rikki Clarke may be fit to return for the game at Trent Bridge, the news on their captain, Jim Troughton, is far less encouraging. There are even whispers that his back injury may threaten his future in the game.

Of more immediate concern is who will keep wicket next week. With Tim Ambrose having sustained not just a fractured thumb while batting but broken a finger while keeping, there is no way he can play in the game starting in Nottingham on Tuesday. But his replacement, Peter McKay, also has a broken finger and the window in which loan players can be brought in has now closed. Ben Scott and Jon Batty were considered in such a predicament earlier in the season.

Sussex also have concerns. They will be without Ed Joyce, Matt Machan and Chris Jordan - all on international duty - for their next game, as well as Wright.

Looking further ahead, they also need to decide who to bring in for next season. While Steve Magoffin has been exceptional, he does not feature in white-ball cricket, leaving the club to decide whether to look for a limited-overs replacement for next season. They will also look to bring in a spinner, with Robin Peterson among the Kolpak options and, perhaps, Gary Keedy (from Surrey) or Stephen Parry (from Lancashire) two possibilities.

"Warwickshire have the best squad we've played against," Robinson said. "They've been hit by call-ups, but they are still a tough, resilient side. And for us, this is life after Monty Panesar. He would have been helpful on this pitch. But he's not here. We'll be looking to bring in a finger spinner before next season.

"So we're outsiders for the title. But if someone had offered us this position in February - one of three teams in with a chance with a few weeks to go - we'd have bitten their hands off."

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on September 1, 2013, 17:39 GMT

    TenDonebyaShooter, I wasn't having a go at your memory as your point is still a good one as the game in question showed. I do not agree about "generations of being smashed by other teams" but that's another argument. Fewer captains seem to show a willingness to set a 'target' as teams are so much better at scoring quickly and Mark Robinson's negative reasoning does him no favours. In the 80's I saw loads of good 'contrived' finishes but not many were over 6 runs per over and didn,t always favour the side batting last. Humbata is talking rubbish as Sussex would probably have won if they'd won 10 out of 12 sessions.The game ebbed and flowed and if he's including the last day as 3 winning sessions then he is still way off. Having Westwood and Chopra bowling, I think any batting side would win claim to be winning before they even started batting. TenDonebyaShooter, I do agree with your point though but I unfortunately think we'll see many games finishing like this now.

  • Brian on September 1, 2013, 13:43 GMT

    @Paul Carew: OK, I accept that my memory was in error in so far as Hampshire not Nottinghamshire won the match concerned but that does not detract from the two main points I was trying to get across, namely, 1, here was a case of two overseas players transparently not only not confused by the customs of contrived declarations in domestic English cricket, but indulging in it freely and indeed being praised for it on the (illogical) grounds that an English captain wouldn't have been so inventive, and 2, that this was a fixture which the side making a risky declaration in the third innings (the option eschewed by Sussex in the present case) won. That was what I was trying to get across, and misremembering who won that particular game in 2005 does not affect this argument.

  • Dummy4 on September 1, 2013, 12:41 GMT

    I was there all 4 days and the wicket was so slow that any target would have been diificult if it required over 5 an over. If none of the teams involved can agree on a target from the outset of day 4 then you get a stalemate and no one comes out of it with any credit. One of the Warwickshire fielders on the boundary was asked about a Sussex declaration and he said "No way the games dead, they only have 3 bowlers really..". No way would any side have won this bowling last and just giving themselves 40-50 overs to take 10 wickets. I can see the Sussex point of view but they now give themselves no chance of claiming the title all for an extra 3 points. TenDonebyaShooter, you are wrong about the match 8 years ago. Hampshire won it bowling last after a Warne declaration that left Notts an apparently easy target but they had a collapse and lost it. It made no difference to the title as Notts won it anyway. I think the match you refer to is when Notts best Kent to claim the title in 2005.

  • Dummy4 on September 1, 2013, 9:08 GMT

    Humbata ''who won 10 of the 12 sessions in this match''. How could you possibly say that! Warwickshire had about an 80 run lead which would of made us favourites to win the game. As it happened Sussex were very negative in their approach to force a result in the game.

  • Brian on September 1, 2013, 7:55 GMT

    @DesPlatt: I won't argue with a fellow Lancashire supporter, but in truth I do find it difficult to stomach seeing any team which isn't Lancashire win any trophy at the best of times. @Ben Timpson: Your deprecation of the English domestic game is rather unnecessary. I recall a match 8 years ago between Nottinghamshire (captained by Steve Fleming) and Hampshire (captained by Warne) where a couple of fake declarations set up a run chase and a result (a victory for Nottinghamshire who were, note, the bowling side.) Not only did that make all the difference to the season (Nottinghamshire won the championship by a couple of points), and not only were the two overseas players transparently not confused, but they were praised along the lines of "no English captained would have been so inventive". It seems to me that some England fans are so used to generations of being smashed by other teams that they can't get out of the mentality of illogically praising everything that comes from overseas

  • Des on August 31, 2013, 23:53 GMT

    TenDonebyaShooter ; that isn't a good reason to not like Warwickshire and I speak as a Lancashire fan. Would Lancs have deserved to keep their title and did not Warwickshire deserve it? No, the reason not to like them is that they were so ungracious about Lancashire the year before saying we had won the championship through making the best of home advantage. That was rubbish ; most seasons Lancs are disadvantaged through playing on dead Old Trafford wickets and we usually have a better away record than home record. All the out grounds did in 2011 was make it a fair contest and Lancs had equal home and away records ( w5 d1 l2)

  • H on August 31, 2013, 23:12 GMT

    Am I missing something here ? Why should a team that the opposition cannot bowl out agree to a run chase that favours the other team ? Blame Warwickshire for a flat pitch, blame Warwickshire for a rediculously short boundary (which they had to get special permission to have), blame Warwickshire for failing to agree a fair target. Don't blame Sussex (who won 10 of the 12 sessions in this match) for not gifting Warwickshire the win

  • Dummy4 on August 31, 2013, 22:36 GMT

    Beer a very inexperienced Spinner yet talented wont get better unless given overs! Other Counties bowl far younger Spinners!

  • Gareth on August 31, 2013, 21:37 GMT

    Seems bizarre Mark Robinson is so obsessed with being part of this '3 horse race'. Good luck to him if the masterplan is to beat Durham twice and Yorkshire

  • Dummy4 on August 31, 2013, 21:22 GMT

    Only in England do we really have these false targets set in first-class cricket, to many of our overseas players they are a thoroughly confusing concept. They do give a chance of victory, and create excitement for the watching fans, but all too often they only really give a real chance to the batting side. It sounds like at Edgbaston in this game, it would have been difficult for Sussex to truly have claimed all the wickets. Yes, Beer might have played more matches than his namesake had, but as a leg-spinner, he is an unlikely option to play a containing role. The simple truth is that sometimes the two captains can't agree on a suitable chase, and the match peters out. It is a shame for the spectators, but that is simply the way cricket goes sometimes. I'm certainly not placing any blame at Joyce's door.

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