Evans tucks in as run feast continues
Warwickshire 367 for 5 (Evans 103*, Trott 68, Ambrose 65*, Wright 65) trail Sussex 601 for 6 dec by 234 runs
Warwickshire still need 85 runs to deny Sussex the opportunity to invite them to follow on but after six bowlers managed to prise out only two wickets between them in the day, on a pitch that remained stubbornly flat, they will be confident of avoiding defeat in any circumstances.
Laurie Evans, who hit three Championship hundreds in 2013, ended the day unbeaten on 103, having completed his first century since August of that year just before the close, a moment he greeted not with any extravagant helmet kissing but by gathering his thoughts for a few seconds before raising his bat.
He had missed out at Lord's three weeks ago when he made 98 and this time there was a palpable sense of relief, and for good reason.
After his breakthrough season following his move to Edgbaston from Surrey, Evans made only 127 runs in the Championship in 2014, averaging just 10 and with a top score of 24. There was talk even of him moving on again, with Nottinghamshire a touted destination, before he committed himself by signing a new three-year deal.
"It has been a while coming," he said. "I got close at Lord's but narrowly missed out. It was nice to put the last 18 months behind me and get a score today albeit on a pretty batter-friendly wicket.
"After such a good 2013 I think last year I put a bit too much pressure on myself, worrying about what I was doing. I was opening the batting too, which is a difficult thing to do and I have always done well at four or five. Off the back of a good season, I wanted to kick on, and when it didn't happen I started to maybe think a bit too much."
Evans thanked his sixth-wicket partner Tim Ambrose for helping him keep his nerve and focus as he closed in on his objective and acknowledged the performance earlier in the day of Chris Wright, who had stepped out as nightwatchman on Monday evening but who eventually stretched his protective duties to almost three-and-a-half hours to complete the ninth half-century of his first-class career.
Wright's vigil came to an end when the fast bowler was tempted into a drive as Ashar Zaidi gave the ball some loop, only to be caught and bowled low down by the left-armer. He made 65, outstaying Jonathan Trott in the end, the pair having added 114 in just under 38 overs for the fourth wicket before an excellent ball from Matt Hobden bowled the former England batsman through the gate, top of off stump.
"On that surface you would have been disappointed to give your wicket away cheaply," Evans said. "Chris told me not so long ago he wanted a chance to go out as nightwatchman and score a century. He didn't quite manage that but he played brilliantly, as did Trotty, and that made it easier for me coming in when the bowlers have already been bowling for two hours."
Indeed, that was that in terms of wickets. The pitch, despite its appearance at the start, persuading each team to load up on spinners, is still remarkably intact despite the baking heat. Luke Wells and Peter Burgoyne toiled long and hard, as did Zaidi, but there were very few moments of alarm for the batsmen.
Burgoyne, on his senior debut for Sussex, was the busiest, and while he does not yet have a wicket he has created a good impression. The 21-year-old was released by Derbyshire in the middle of last season, having suffered from a stress-related illness, and has arrived on the south coast in similar circumstances to Ollie Robinson, the fast bowler sacked by Yorkshire for a lack of professionalism, in that both have something to prove.
Tall and broad, he won his place in the side after showing promise in the 2nd XI, for whom he took 10 wickets against Gloucestershire last week. He bowled tidily and while not posing too much of a threat he was difficult to score against.
Sussex tried some funky fields at times, lining up two short midwickets and two silly mid-ons for Wright and again for Ambrose in the hope that the right ball from one of the quicker men might provoke an error, all to no avail. The second new ball was taken a couple of overs after it became available, but the swing that Steve Magoffin found on Monday evening was absent this time. As a contest between bat and ball, it has not been an even one.