For a time Warwickshire were made to work harder than they may have expected by Sussex, but the 40-over Sunday League is more of an exhibition than the stern examination the Championship provides and one of its delights is that surprising things can sometimes happen.
Nonetheless, Warwickshire, in the end, showed their irresistible form taking a firm grip of the game just when a lesser side might have become introspective. At 31 for 2 in the seventh over, their innings had to be rebuilt.
As usual, Neil Smith had opened in the pinch-hitter role but he could only watch while Nick Knight pulled Vasbert Drakes to midwicket. Two overs later, Paul Smith was surprised by one from Drakes which bounced more than he expected and gave a gentle return catch.
For the first nine overs, Drakes and Paul Jarvis bowled well at Neil Smith who was obviously on the lookout for anything he could hit over the inner ring of fielders. He was given little opportunity and when these two wickets fell he had to forget about pinch-hitting and make sure Warwickshire did not lose a third wicket.
He did this admirably, and against the less experienced bowlers he and Ostler began to build up the momentum of the innings. They both played some handsome strokes and after 20 overs Warwickshire were up with the required rate of six runs an over.
The best stroke of all was a wristy cut Smith played at a ball from Ed Giddins that was barely short enough or wide enough for the purpose. He timed it perfectly and it fairly raced away behind square for four.
The 100 partnership came in 14 overs; both batsman reached their fifties; Smith's 100 and the 200 stand came in the 32nd over and Warwickshire won with 5.5 overs to spare. By the end, Sussex's attack was in ruins.
After Sussex had won the toss, James Hall and Keith Greenfield began the match by putting on an attractive 67 in 16 overs and there was then an extraordinary innings by Martin Speight. He made 39 runs in 25 balls, in which he revealed that he is a past-master of the reverse sweep and in general one of the most compelling of batsmen.
Happily, he had recovered from the mystery illness which prevented him from playing for Sussex last year and one only hopes he will now have a most successful season, because he will provide wonderful entertainment. After he had driven Graeme Welch to mid-on, Greenfield and Alan Wells took the score to 192 before they were run out in successive overs, and with two new batsmen at the crease in the 34th over Sussex were unable to capitalise fully on their good start.
Surprisingly, Shaun Pollock was not a reason for this. He did not open the bowling for Warwickshire - Allan Donald did not on Sundays last year - his one wicket was caught at deep cover and bowling well within himself he took 1 for 50 in eight overs.Reuse content