Warwickshire are on the brink of joining Kent in winning promotion from the second division of the Specsavers County Championship after consolidating their position on the third day of their match against Sussex at Hove.
Needing only a draw to confirm their elevation they will enter the last day on 141 for no wicket, an advantage of 238 runs. Sussex, meanwhile, saw their own promotion aspirations become increasingly far-fetched as the day progressed.
First, their inability reach 400 in their first innings confirmed Kent’s upgrade and then their failure to take quick Warwickshire wickets left their position looking forlorn at the end of play.
Sussex captain Ben Brown, who scored 99: “It’s a crazy game we play for a living. I played really well and fell flat at the end, which was frustrating. I was happy with the way I played and then I got a good ball from Jeetan Patel, so I feel a bit flat.
“David Wiese has been excellent with bat and ball. He’s adapted to English conditions with the bat this year – by his own admission he struggled a bit last season. He’s great to bat with.
“I’m proud of the team’s efforts. The pitch hasn’t really played as we would have liked. It’s not doing an awful lot. We knew we had to win this game so we’ve got some hard work to do tomorrow. I don’t think Warwickshire will do us any favours. They might set us 400 in the last session. We’ve played good cricket all year, but promotion has probably slipped away from us now.”
Sussex resumed on 224 for five and achieved their first target, which was to get within 100 runs of Warwickshire’s 440. Ben Brown and David Wiese continued to frustrate the Warwickshire bowlers in the morning and carried their sixth wicket stand to 196 in 38 overs. Wiese, who scored a century at Edgbaston early in the season, managed 93 here before he was bowled by a delivery from Chris Wright that came into the batsman and kept a little low.
Sussex avoided the danger of being asked to follow on when Brown square-drove Ryan Sidebottom for four to take his side to 291. At lunch Sussex were 311 for six and Brown had taken his score to 98. But he fell one run short of his 16th first-class century. He pushed forward to a delivery from Jeetan Patel which went straight on and Ian Trott took a sharp catch, low down at slip.
A studious Chris Jordan scored 15 from 66 balls. He was out when he attempted to sweep Patel and was caught at backward square-leg. With Tom Haines unable to bat because of injury, Sussex lost their ninth and final wicket when Jofra Archer was caught at slip for 16. They finished 97 runs behind.
Warwickshire were under no pressure to score quick pre-declaration runs. But, to their credit, Will Rhodes and Dom Sibley made a positive start to the second innings and brought up the hundred in the 28th over.
The in-form Rhodes, who was released by Yorkshire and recommended to Warwickshire by Sussex coach Jason Gillespie, has been outscored only by the prolific Ian Bell and Jonathan Trott in the Warwickshire team this season and he dominated the opening partnership against one of the best pace attacks in the country.
At the close of play – 13 overs early because of bad light – he was 76 not out from 131 deliveries, with nine fours and a six, a slog-sweep off Danny Briggs, while the slightly more circumspect Sibley was unbeaten on 43.