Warwickshire 440 (Trott 124, Bell 112, Rhodes 50, Archer 4-66) and 381 for 3 dec (Sibley 144*, Hain 90, Rhodes 88) drew with Sussex 343 (Brown 99, Wiese 93, Barker 3-42, Stone 3-59)
At 4.20 this afternoon Tim Ambrose played an innocuous ball from Ben Brown into the on side. The bowler fielded it, Paul Baldwin called over and Warwickshire declared. The game ended in a draw and the players shook hands. Receiving particular congratulations, perhaps, was Dom Sibley, who had batted through the day for 144 not out
The handshakes marked two events, one of them specific to the moment, the other curiously timeless. They confirmed Warwickshire's promotion and they brought the first-class season at Hove to an end. The first of these had been certain for hours barring the intervention of God or Jofra Archer. This draw leaves Jeetan Patel's side equal on points with Kent, who have won two matches more. Whichever side takes more points from next week's game between the sides at Edgbaston will be Second Division champions.
And across England cricket is softly drawing down its blinds. All the counties are playing next week but there are matches at only nine grounds, of course. Most of the season's serious work is done. Monday afternoon in Brighton seems suddenly distant with its warmth and careless leisure: the aroma of cannabis in North Laine; beach volleyball near Kings Road; the glittering water. Then there were catamarans drawn up on the shingle, their names a curious confection of aggression, fondness and titillation: Tiger, Ethel, Seymour Butts.
Some mornings this week there have been floodlights, mild air and the churn of the Channel glimpsed through the great arcade of trees on Selborne Road. Today, though, the atmosphere was not so clotted and the sun was in generous attendance. Only the temperature reminded one this is autumn. "Seaward the water / Is satin, pale emerald, fretted with lace at the edges / The whole sky rinsed easy like nerves after pain," wrote Alan Ross in his poem, "Cricket at Brighton."
Sussex supporters were presented with three wickets as rewards for their loyalty this sparkling day. In the fifth over of the morning Will Rhodes shuffled much too far across his crease and was leg before to Ollie Robinson for 88. Then Ian Bell suffered bruising to his right thumb when hit by a ball from Robinson and had to retire hurt.
Out strode Jonathan Trott, a batsman who had spent over five hours earlier this week scoring his seventh career century against Sussex. "Jesus Christ!" exclaimed a blasphemous Sussex adherent with a passing knowledge of the Book of Hebrews. "The same yesterday, today and for ever more." But his fears were misplaced on the two latter counts: Trott made only 8 before clipping Chris Jordan to Harry Finch at midwicket and he is retiring next week in any case.
Despite these two dismissals and one injury, the game was soon ambling quietly towards stalemate. In the afternoon session Robinson sent down some fairly respectable off-spin and Sussex used three wicketkeepers, albeit not all at once. Phil Salt and Michael Burgess bowled their maiden spells in first-class cricket. The flagpoles bent in the breeze and some players' caps blew off. The game drifted into late afternoon and the over rate was plus 12 at one stage. A draw could have been agreed at teatime and perhaps it should have been.
Sibley spent the rest of the day filling his boots which, if his feet are in proportion to the rest of him, was some achievement. He put on 168 for the third wicket with Sam Hain, who had made 90 when he chased a wide one from Salt and edged a catch to wicketkeeper Harry Finch. The ecstatic Salt raced off like Mick the Miller but was eventually mobbed by his equally delighted team-mates. If you had told the uninitiated that the cricket had a gentle, addictive beauty about it, they might have called for an unmarked van and a straitjacket.