Warwickshire 440 (Trott 124, Bell 112, Rhodes 50, Archer 4-66) and 141 for 0 (Rhodes 76*, Sibley 43*) lead Sussex 343 (Brown 99, Wiese 93, Barker 3-42) by 238 runs
Summer clings on in Sussex but the county's thin hopes of promotion have been scattered on the blustery wind. Having arrived at the ground this morning sustained by the envision that they might challenge Warwickshire's first innings 440 and then embarrass their visitors in the second half of the game, Ben Brown's players eventually left the field with their opponents 238 runs to the good and all their wickets intact. A few hours earlier Kent had secured promotion and their match at Edgbaston next week seems certain to be a First Division title decider. The bad light that ended the cricket 13 overs early probably seemed rather fitting for home supporters.
And it was grimly ironic that Will Rhodes, the player who helped make Warwickshire safe in this game, was recommended to his new county by the current Sussex coach, Jason Gillespie, who had been responsible for the all-rounder's development when in a similar post at Headingley. Rhodes' unbeaten 76 in Warwickshire's second innings took his total of championship runs this season to 850 at an average of 42.5. As Yorkshire's supporters sigh with relief at their own county's survival in the First Division they may reflect how much easier that passage might have been had their batting been strengthened by Rhodes' unflappable presence.
Certainly the opener's good footwork and thumping drives have been features of Warwickshire's season and his unbroken first-wicket stand of 141 with Dom Sibley, their third century partnership in six innings, finally stamped on any notions Brown's bowlers might have hatched of taking early wickets and inducing panic. Rhodes' fearless batting - he slog-swept Danny Briggs for six in the twelfth over - confirmed he has made a success of leaving Yorkshire, the county he had represented since the age of ten. It is a trick few players manage to pull off. Gillespie, of course, will congratulate Rhodes and be pleased for him but he may also reflect on his praise with a wry smile. "How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is / To have a thankless child" exclaims King Lear.
Yet anyone who expected Sussex to subside in an unsightly heap once their promotion chances became fanciful underestimated the culture of enjoyment and achievement that Gillespie has encouraged at Hove. They also failed to allow for Brown's competitive instincts and that is normally a grave oversight. This was proved in the first hour of the day's play when he and David Wiese extended their sixth-wicket stand to 196. Brown's method is quiet but it captures the attention. There are normally four taps of the bat in the crease, often in two sets of two, and then a firm crack of bat on ball even if the shot is defensive. Obduracy comes as standard.
Wiese is hewn from similar rock and the pair looked secure until he was bowled by a ball from Chris Wright which nipped back but also kept low. He was seven short of what would have been a deserved century and his dismissal was crucial to Warwickshire's progress. None of the remaining batsmen scored runs with Wiese's unfussy ease and the hour's cricket before lunch was characterised by close-set fields and a throttled run-rate.
Immediately after lunch Jeetan Patel switched himself to the Sea End and this change proved decisive. A couple of sharpish off-spinners prompted Brown to push forward tentatively for a third and he edged an arm ball to Jonathan Trott at slip. He had made 99. Nearly but not quite. It seemed to sum up Sussex's season. And home supporters had barely got over their misery at the dismissal of their skipper when Chris Jordan top edged a sweep off Patel to Ryan Sidebottom at backward square leg.
With Tom Haines' ankle ligament injury rendering him hors de combat for the rest of this game, Joffra Archer and Ollie Robinson became their side's last pair and Archer's innings was ended on 16 when he edged a very rapid delivery from Olly Stone to second slip, where Sibley took an unnervingly good two-handed catch above his head. Sibley then trotted off to the pavilion with Rhodes and ten minutes later the pair strode out purposefully to begin what may be any team's final innings at Hove this year.