Sizzling Clarke helps Warks reach summit
Rikki Clarke struck a run-a-ball century as Warwickshire charged to the top of the LV= County Championship Division One by taking maximum bonus points from their rain-ravaged draw with Sussex at Edgbaston.
Clarke’s unbeaten 110, coupled with a season’s best 81 from a resurgent Jim Troughton, took the title contenders to a declaration on 400 for eight.
Yet even they must have been mildly surprised by the way Sussex collapsed for 191 in less than half a day, with New Zealand off-spinner Jeetan Patel taking 5-77.
Six batsmen got into the 20s but no-one did better than Luke Wright’s 36 before he sliced Patel to deep point.
Clarke was again at the forefront for Warwickshire with 3-19 and Patel preyed on Sussex’s vulnerability in an unchanged spell of 18.1 overs, which included the wicket of Matt Prior when the England wicketkeeper clipped to mid-on.
All this added to a near-perfect day for the barnstorming home side. Five points for batting, three for bowling and three for a draw put them one ahead of overnight leaders Nottinghamshire with a game in hand.
For Sussex it was a no-win situation, although they did retrieve a couple of bowling points to keep their distance from the relegation strugglers.
Warwickshire’s batsmen could not have done more in making up for lost time after two full days had fallen to the weather.
Resuming at 175 for three, they added 225 in a five-runs-an-over gallop peaking with an eighth-wicket partnership of 96 in 61 balls between Clarke and Keith Barker.
The morning session held no hint of the fireworks to come as Troughton quietly went about the task of rebuilding form and confidence after a difficult season.
Having needed 10 innings to muster 50 championship runs, the Warwickshire captain got his next 50 in one go, reaching a welcome milestone with a boundary off James Anyon in the third over of the day.
Monty Panesar, with 4-95, managed to interrupt Warwickshire’s progress courtesy of wickets in successive balls – Darren Maddy, lbw for 21, and Tim Ambrose taken at first slip.
Warwickshire, however, are not easily knocked off course. Clarke coming in at number seven is a formidable proposition and again he saw his side through to their objective in another destructive innings.
Although Troughton was caught at slip, slashing at ball from Anyon, Clarke ploughed on, first with Chris Woakes and then alongside Barker, who made 34 from 31 balls until he was well caught by Steve Magoffin at long leg.
Clarke should have gone on 71 when dropped by substitute Michael Rippon at long-on off Chris Nash, but the all-rounder went on to plunder 15 fours and two sixes.
It was then down to Patel to raise 400 with four balls to spare before the cut-off for bonus points.