Jeetan Patel frustrates Sussex's outside title ambitions

Sussex 311 & 148-3 Warwickshire 394

Much as Durham's attempt to slash Yorkshire's lead at the top of the First Division table has trained attention on Scarborough, Sussex's role in what remains of the season should not be underestimated.

Fourth going into this round, Ed Joyce's side have ground to make up. Yet in the three matches left in their schedule once they finish here they take on Durham at home and away and Yorkshire at home, which clearly gives added value to all three.

Sussex have won only once in the Championship since May, which might dampen their optimism somewhat. On the other hand, they thumped Yorkshire by an innings at Headingley in April. The potential remains for a significant change in the shape of the title race.

That potential would probably be greater, it should be said, if things had not gone so wrong for Monty Panesar in his stay on the South Coast. They could have done with him here, in form, as Warwickshire – in spite of another five wickets from the wonderfully consistent Steve Magoffin – turned a deficit of 59 runs overnight, with six wickets down, into a lead of 83 on the back of some solid, patient batting, notably from Jeetan Patel, who may hold the key to the outcome of this game.

The New Zealand off-spinner knows how to bat but tends to go about it with a sense of adventure and not always with the desired result, so Warwickshire were hugely grateful that everything came off for him on this occasion.

It was his unbeaten 78 off 99 balls, with nine fours and a six off the leg-spinner Will Beer, that made the difference, building on the fine work by Laurie Evans on Thursday and by Tom Milnes today, the 20-year-old seamer making a composed 48 before he was taken at slip.

Milnes, like Evans before him, fell ultimately to Chris Nash, whose off-spin is a useful addition to Joyce's range of weapons but no more than that. Beer has been asked to fill Panesar's shoes in this game and he does not yet look like a bowler capable of running through a side, even on a favourable wicket.

Patel, on the other hand, has that capability. He had Nash caught at short leg and Luke Wells, off a top edge, caught at square leg as Sussex tried to build a lead, before a direct hit from Maurice Chambers at cover ran out Michael Yardy. A draw seems the likeliest outcome.