Record Evans-Ambrose stand confirms deathly draw
Warwickshire 612 for 6 dec (Evans 213*, Ambrose 153*, Trott 68, Wright 65) drew with Sussex 601 for 6 dec (Nash 121, Brown 119*, Wright 110, Zaidi 106)
Four-day matches that finish in two and a half occur all too commonly and benefit no one except the side that wins. At the other extreme, thankfully much more rare, are matches like this one, in which a finish in two and a half weeks could not be guaranteed. Records were broken, but it would challenge the even the nerdiest of statisticians to find the cricket more than momentarily exciting.
At least the welter of runs offered Sussex the grounds to fire a few robust retorts after finding themselves bracketed only a week ago with Nottinghamshire, Hampshire and Worcestershire among the four counties likely to spit out the two sides to be relegated.
Sussex's first innings 601 for 6, the 14th highest total in the county's history and their highest against Warwickshire, followed a sequence of low scores and scratchy performances, with the majority of their frontline batsmen desperately out of form, a slump that coincided with a raft of injuries among their bowlers.
Hardly any wonder, then, that coach Mark Robinson was somewhat relieved to see four players make hundreds in a collective display of resilience against one of the Championship's strongest attacks, albeit lacking the injured Keith Barker, at a stage in the contest when the possibility of a result was still alive.
"I feel for our batsmen," Robinson said. "They have had a tough time. They have played on some poor wickets on some away grounds and at home as well. We have been under the cosh and the batters have got the stick at times and that has been a bit unfair.
"People have looked at where we are in the table and asked questions and quite rightly so but we believe we would be right up there if we had been able to keep our resources intact.
"But to have four seamers not being able to bowl red-ball cricket, two of them we have not had available all season, that's going to test anybody. We have lost a bowler during the match in four of our games. In the last game we lost Ajmal Shahzad, while Chris Nash was sick all the way through and ended up on a drip."
"Yet in every game we have played we could have won it. What we do have is a tremendous team spirit and hopefully enough resilience to turn the corner. We showed it in this game. That's all you can ask."
As for winning this game, that was probably never on the cards for either team in reality. At the end of the second day, after keeping Warwickshire in the field for five sessions, Sussex were on top briefly, reducing the home side to 56 for 3 with the follow-on target of 452 looking a daunting distance away. But when the third morning yielded nothing for the seamers, and it became clear that the pitch was not going to help the spinners more than negligibly, Warwickshire had the comfort of knowing they would have to bat particularly badly if Sussex were to win.
The cynic might suspect that Warwickshire were seeking to make a point after being beaten on a poor surface at Hove earlier in the season but Robinson had no complaints.
"I know it was not Warwickshire's intention for that to happen, they wanted a wicket that would turn and bring Jeets [Jeetan Patel] into the game and it has not happened," he said.
After the Sussex quartet, Warwickshire countered with Laurie Evans and Tim Ambrose as more records were set. Their partnership became the highest for the sixth wicket by Warwickshire against any opposition when it passed 226 (Ambrose and Heath Streak against Worcestershire at New Road in 2007) and by the time it ended at 327, when Ambrose top-edged a sweep on 153 to give 21-year-old offspinner Peter Burgoyne his first wicket for Sussex, it had been installed as the fourth-highest sixth-wicket partnership in the history of the Championship.
Evans, who batted for eight hours, completed his maiden double hundred, having passed his previous highest score of 178 against Nottinghamshire here in 2013. Never before have both sides made more than 600 in their first innings on this ground. The only other instance of two 500-plus first innings scores came in 1994, when Durham made 556 for 8 and Warwickshire countered with 810 for 4, with some bloke called Lara making a few.
Dougie Brown, the Warwickshire director of cricket, revealed afterwards that there had been another strip ready for this match but, after an injury to Barker left them a seamer short, they plumped for a pitch used twice before in Twenty20 matches and picked three spinners.
"It was my call," he said. "The one thing we have not been able to do regularly here is get pitches that spin and we thought this one would turn so we could get our spinners into the game but it never happened that way. The pitch just got slower and slower. To be fair, our groundsman Gary Barwell warned us that a different pitch might be better to play on. It was our decision and sometimes you just have to say you got it wrong."