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Tim Wigmore at Arundel
June 19, 2014
Sussex 316 (Well 74, Lewis 61, Bresnan 3-81) and 228 for 3 (Wells 81, Hamilton-Brown 62, Nash 53) drew with Yorkshire 470 for 7 dec (Bairstow 161*, Leaning 99, Bresnan 68, Lyth 66, Magoffin 4-81)
"Come on lads, the crowd are booking in here already for next year."
"Wake up, wake up, it's a four."
It said much for the final day at Arundel that Jonny Bairstow's chirping, and desperate attempts to drag the game out of its slumber, will probably stay with the crowd longer than any of the actual cricket.
The spectators probably did not mind too much: they enjoyed a tranquil day at one of England's most picturesque grounds; and the early finish gave them a chance to get away in time for the football.
An inert pitch offered neither assistance for any bowlers nor incentive to entertain with strokeplay. The nub was a final day of earnest defensive strokes against batsmen masquerading as spin bowlers. It is hard to imagine many who attended wishing to see a Championship game played at a less idyllic ground anytime soon.
Yorkshire understandably opted to protect their quick bowlers from such a benign pitch, once it became clear that a fourth Championship victory of the season would be impossible. Eight bowlers were tried on the final day. The excitement, in so much as there was any, came from Andrew Gale giving Richard Pyrah three mid-ons: the 'Yorkshire wall'.
"It's been a poor pitch," Gale said. "It was so slow. Anything that happened out of the pitch happened slow enough to adapt as a batsman. If it turned a little bit you could adapt or if it seamed slightly you could adapt as well.
"With some of the fields Sussex set yesterday, it was very hard to kick the game on. It would have been nice to score quicker but it was very difficult with the slowness of the wicket and the fields that were being set.
"Sussex probably need to look at how they're going to create better entertainment here," Gale said. For most of this game, the cricket was of only incidental interest.
It was enough to reopen the old debate: why is the ECB so willing to reprimand counties for wickets that offer too much assistance for bowlers, but unwilling to do the same for excessively flat pitches? This was a particularly egregious example.
Yorkshire's haul of ten points takes them to 118, ahead of Nottinghamshire by virtue of having lost fewer games, though it should be pointed out that Yorkshire have played Northamptonshire twice already. Somerset, who lie five points back with a game in hand, still have two games against the bottom club to play.
Gale believes that Yorkshire have only played to 80% of their potential so far. England call-ups - including an unexpected one for Liam Plunkett - have not helped. The return of Ryan Sidebottom against Warwickshire on Sunday will be overdue but Tim Bresnan may miss the game; he has been carrying a sore elbow and may require an injection.
Yorkshire were also deprived of Adil Rashid for this game, who could also miss the trip to Birmingham as his wife is still expecting. That could mean that Azeem Rafiq keeps his place in the side.
"He got better as the game went on," Gale said. "The lad's had a rough time of it and been lacking a lot of confidence and he's shown a lot of character over the last month, coming back into Twenty20 and performing as he has done. He bowled okay."
Sussex's limited ambitions were understandable. They have not won in their last seven Championship matches, while they have also lost five consecutive T20 games. And then there are the revelations about match-fixing involving former players.
Sussex batsmen have scored eight hundreds this season, which sounds respectable enough, but four of those have come from Ed Joyce. That statistic did not change on the final day, but at least the top three each made half-centuries. Luke Wells hit 81 to go with his first innings 74; even with a draw a certainty, he showed no inclination to be aggressive. For any who fear that county cricket has no time for adhesive openers in the T20 age, it was a heartening sight.
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