Warwickshire v Sussex, Edgbaston, 3rd day April 15, 2014

Joyce puts Sussex on the brink

Sussex 229 (Joyce 117) and 273 for 2 (Joyce 125*) need a further 57 runs to beat Warwickshire 87 and 471 (Bell 189*, Clarke 99, Patel 74, Magoffin 3-88, Jordan 3-121)
Scorecard

Just after lunch on Wednesday, Mark Robinson will be interviewed for the role of head coach of England.

While the ECB panel - David Collier, Gordon Lord and Paul Downton - will surely not be so fickle as to be persuaded by short-term fluctuations in fortune, it will do the Sussex coach no harm at all that, while his rivals have recently seen their teams defeated by the likes of Holland, his side - barring a miracle - have achieved their highest successful fourth-innings run chase this century and won at Edgbaston for just the second time since 1961 and the first time since 1982.

They will have won three Championship games in a row and Robinson, as the most successful coach (in terms of trophy wins) currently operating in the domestic game, will have again demonstrated an ability to identify and nurture talent that would serve England well.

It is just possible that this will prove to be Robinson's final game at the helm for Sussex. Appointed at the end of 2005, he has overseen victory in six major trophies, including the Championship twice. And perhaps it would be fitting if, on a ground where he has never tasted Championship success as a player or coach, he were to round things off with a win.

Set 330 to win on a wicket that has improved throughout the game, Sussex will enter the final day requiring only 57 more runs and with eight wickets in hand.

More than that, they will have one of the main architects of their success at the crease. In a match enriched by the batting of two men, it is the contribution of Ed Joyce that will prove defining. Joyce has already become the 14th Sussex batsman to record a century in each innings of a Championship match and has led his side to the brink of a victory.

Joyce's talent has never been in doubt. But, for a long time, he appeared a pleasing but loose batsman. Now, in his mid-30s and his determination renewed by the responsibility of captaincy, he has matured into a top-class player who remains as easy on the eye as ever, but whose grace is now complemented by a compact technique, fine powers of concentration and a wider range of strokes than most. He punished every error from Warwickshire's attack both mercilessly and elegantly. This was his third century of a season that has barely started.

As an experienced professional, Joyce has played in teams coaches by men as celebrated as Duncan Fletcher and Phil Simmons. So when he talks of Robinson as "the best" he has played under, it is probably wise to listen.

"Mark Robinson is the best coach I've played under," Joyce said, "and England would be lucky to have him. He is probably an outside bet at the moment. He is coming from a county team and hasn't done the international job before, but I think he would be a good choice.

"He is a great man with a lot of strengths. He has been a quality county coach for a long time. He says the right things at the right time and he is a good man manager. He gets the balance right between saying the right things at the right time and he tends to be more grumpy if we're winning. He leaves nothing to chance and covers all the bases."

Defeat here would be cruel on Ian Bell. The Warwickshire captain, who came to the crease with his side in a hopeless position, was left undefeated on 189 having added 324 for his side's final five wickets. Some of his batting on the third morning was of an exceptional quality with Jimmy Anyon flicked for two sixes over square leg - with anyone else you would call the shot a slog, but nothing Bell does could be described that way - and Ashar Zaidi driven to distraction and milked like a Friesian. Even Chris Jordan was rendered impotent.

But it did Warwickshire little good. Luke Wells and Joyce were soon into their stride, with the former, who is out of contract this season and far from certain to stay at a club that cannot guarantee him limited-overs cricket, using his feet to drive Jeetan Patel for a succession of straight boundaries.

Had Warwickshire taken their chances, things might have been different. But though Sussex have had, on the evidence of this game, the better seam attack, it has been their superior catching that has really differentiated these two teams. While on the first day, Sussex took a succession of sharp chances in the field, on the third day, Warwickshire dropped several.

It did not take long for Warwickshire to feel the absence of Rikki Clarke. With Clarke expected to be unavailable for at least four weeks with a broken finger, Laurie Evans was pressed into service at second slip and soon put down a relatively straightforward chance offered by Luke Wells on four.

Later Joyce, on 91, was put down twice in two balls - both times off Patel - with Jonathan Trott missing a sharp chance at slip and Tim Ambrose then missing one behind the stumps.

Patel, who has effectively ended his international career by turning down an invitation from New Zealand to be part of their tour party to the Caribbean, was unable to gain as much assistance as had been anticipated. But it was the failure of the Warwickshire seamers to maintain a tight enough line or length that really cost the home side, with Barker squandering the new ball and Chris Woakes serving up an uncharacteristic amount of short balls in an oddly loose spell. At one stage, Hamilton-Brown thumped him for three fours in an over and it appeared Sussex might claim the extra half-hour and look to finish the game in three days.

"Sussex have only won once here in the Championship in my lifetime and I've never won here as a coach or a player," Robinson said at the close of play. "But we still need another 57 runs and Warwickshire are one of the toughest teams in the country. They will come at us hard tomorrow. But we do have a fantastic chance of breaking a hoodoo that has hung over us.

"To have Hull City win at Wembley and then the team that I am lucky enough to be in charge of win here would be an outstanding achievement."

Indeed it would. And it might prove a fitting end to his stay at a club he has served with distinction.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • FTSE on April 16, 2014, 9:42 GMT

    How about Peter Moores and Mark Robinson at the head of an England coaching operation. They know each other well and have tremendous respect for each other. They are cut from the same cloth.

  • landl47 on April 16, 2014, 4:17 GMT

    I think Robinson would be a splendid choice as coach. I saw nothing from Giles which indicated he was a good motivator or had any kind of a plan. Robinson has been successful, he's a new face in the England set-up and his job is going to be rebuilding the side with the young talent England has available.

    Most of all, he would add some interest and excitement to watching England. Does anyone really think Giles would do that?

  • jackiethepen on April 15, 2014, 22:05 GMT

    This has been a marvellous game for the spectator and for lovers of cricket. And both captains, Bell and Joyce, have led their sides with exceptional innings of grace and quality. The whole game while fluctuating dramatically has been conducted in the right spirit of cricket with each side applauding the other on occasions and Rikki Clarke walking before given out. What a pleasure after the snarling pit of sledging akin to bear baiting which dominated the Ashes Tour Down Under. No excuses for England but no one can claim the games were held with the spirit of cricket paramount. Bell and Joyce have shown that games can be strongly fought without acrimony.

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