If Ed Joyce’s century in the context of a 20-wicket opening day was remarkable, then it was trumped yesterday by Ian Bell, whose 46th first-class hundred has so transformed this match that Sussex, who appeared at one stage almost to be nailed-on winners inside two days, could conceivably find themselves beaten in three.
Certainly, a Sussex victory loomed large half an hour or so after lunch yesterday, when the departure of Chris Woakes during another impressive spell of bowling from Chris Jordan left Warwickshire effectively at 5 for 5 in their second innings. Bell, who had given a hard chance to gully on 23, had by then completed a 62-ball half-century but, with his potential allies largely all gone in clawing back first-innings arrears, it looked likely to be an effort in vain.
But there was one key supporter still to come in the all-rounder Rikki Clarke, whose 79 was not only highly valuable in its contribution to a stand of 132 for the sixth wicket but was ultimately pretty brave, given that he scored 30 of those runs after he had been hit so painfully on the right hand by a ball from Jordan that his further participation in the match must be in some doubt. Clarke was caught behind, strangled down the leg side by James Anyon. It was not the first shot he had played with one hand.
Conditions became easier as the day progressed and, after Jeetan Patel chipped in with a positive 47 from 46 balls, having been dropped at third slip on 28, Warwickshire lead by 245.
Bell is unbeaten on 144, having looked in supreme touch almost throughout. He was particularly pleased to have affected the match. “When I come back to Edgbaston, I don’t want to think I’m just getting ready for England, I want to help us win games,” he said. “In my early days I scored a lot of nice runs that looked good on the eye but did not really change the course of a game. In the last two or three years I’ve started to do that more often.”
If Bell was impressive then Jonathan Trott was worryingly less so. As Sussex decided to test him against the short ball, he was hit twice, on the body by Jordan and the helmet by Steve Magoffin, before making a mess of a hook and propelling an easy catch to deep backward square, out for 26.