Cricket: Warwicks must wait to know their fate

Sussex 99 & 176 v Warwickshire 207 & 71-3 Warwickshire win by 7 wkts
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WHATEVER THE merits or otherwise of splitting the Championship in two, the division of the counties has created a climax to the season like none before. And even though Warwickshire probably clinched a top- flight place by wrapping up victory inside two days yesterday, they will not know for sure perhaps until tomorrow, depending on what happens at Leicester and Derby.

Two days? Actually, it was 159.5 overs. Little wonder that the pitches inspector, Chris Wood, turned up to determine whether Warwickshire had been playing fair, which only added to the tension. Given that any number of inadequate pitches have escaped censure this season, a penalty here would have represented rough justice but Wood announced, after tea, that no action would be taken.

Warwickshire, needing to win to stand any chance of sneaking into the top nine, always held the upper hand yesterday. Sussex had not lost a wicket but trailed by 93 after lunch and were kept under pressure throughout, a situation in which all bar Toby Pierce and Tony Cottey were found wanting.

After Tim Munton and Ed Giddins had accelerated the cause by reducing Sussex to 20 for 3, during which time Wasim Khan suffered the ignominy of a pair against his former employers, Neil Smith turned to Ashley Giles, his left-arm spinner, to exploit conditions that were changing in his favour.

Although it took a hour for him to break through, Giles did not disappoint. Pierce, who had played sensibly for 39, was undone by a ball that turned and lifted as the 17-year-old Ian Ball pouched his first county catch at forward short-leg. Thereafter, Cottey employed the wisdom of his years to bat for more than three hours, but could find no adhesive partners.

Giles finished with a season's best 5 for 63 from 24.1 overs, finishing off by clean bowling Cottey for 73. Warwickshire were thus left to score 69 to win. Smith claimed the extra half-hour, and Nick Knight's unbeaten 40 saw them home.