In a pulsating encounter that remained perfectly balanced throughout, Warwickshire beat Sussex by four runs to confirm their status as likely qualifiers for the knock out stages of the Royal London Cup.
After over 600 runs had been scored, it came down to the last over with Sussex needing 12 to win. Six were needed off the final delivery from George Garrett but Aristides Karvalas could only manage a single. And so the Bears won despite a beautifully judged hundred by Sussex captain Cheteshwar Pujara.
All credit needs to be given to both sides for providing such a thrilling match in intense heat.
Going to a Royal London One Day Cup match this year is rather like turning up at a party and realising that you hardly know anyone. Even worse, most of the people that you expected to see have gone to a different party. Never mind. It’s a chance to meet new friends or, in the case of the Royal London, to see promising young players in action, the stars of the future who will probably be playing in The Hundred next year for one of the confectionery sponsored teams.
This was an opportunity, therefore, to meet, amongst several others, Greek/South African Aristides Karvelas, certainly a name to conjure with, plus 17 year old Kai Smith of the United Arab Emirates and 16 year old Hamza Shaikh from the more prosaic and parochial background of Smethwick and Knowle and Dorridge Cricket Clubs. Sussex captain Cheteshwar Pujara may well have reflected on the fact that he made his first class debut before Shaikh was born.
Chasing 311 to win, Sussex made a bright start before Harrison Ward lobbed a catch off Oliver Hannon-Dalby. Ali Orr and Tom Clark made reasonable progress, though Rob Yates showed his all round skills with some canny off-spin overs.
When Clark was caught for 30, Sussex were 112-2 in the 22nd over.
Then came what could have been a crucial few minutes when both Pujara and Orr were dropped by Ethan Brookes. The Pujara chance at backward point of Olly Hannon-Dalby looked increasingly unfortunate for the Bears as the game went on.
Orr proceeded beyond his fifty and Pujara did what Pujara has done for (at last count) 14 different teams across the world. He took the singles and two and occasionally struck the loose ball to the boundary.
When Orr lofted Pandya to the deep mid-wicket boundary and was caught for 81, the fielder showed more than the usual delight – maybe because it was that man Ethan Brookes. At 172-3 in the 34th over, Sussex were still well placed. But when Tom Alsop hit a George Garrett delivery straight to Matt Lamb at mid-wicket, the balance had perceptibly shifted. Sussex were 189-4 off 36.4 overs and needed another 122 to win.
While Pujara was there, Sussex still had plenty of hope. He reached his fifty, uncharacteristically, with a hit for six off opposing captain Will Rhodes. Aside from the six, he had struck just two boundaries but still reached the milestone off just 51 balls.
No sooner had he done so than his partner in a stand of 34, Delray Rawlins, lofted Pandya to Brookes on the deep mid-wicket boundary. Pandya completed his ten overs with an impressive 3-51.
Danial Ibrahim skied a catch to short third man off George Garrett to leave Sussex, at 235-6, needing 76 more runs off 40 balls. Apparently equal to the task, Pujara smote 22 runs off Liam Norwell’s final over. 48 needed off five overs.
Pujara reached his 100 off 73 balls, his second 50 coming off just 22 deliveries.
Although Karvalas was caught by Burgess off Garrett, it was a high full toss called as a no-ball. Quite possibly exhausted in the heat, Pujara twice needed physio attention before he swung at a full length delivery from the persevering Olly Hannon-Dalby and was bowled for 107 off 79 balls.
And so we reached that final over when Archie Lenham and Karvalas could not quite make those 12 runs needed.
Back at the beginning of the day, having won the toss and decided to bat, Warwickshire made a steady start. Young Hamzah Shaikh provided good support to Rob Yates, at 22 years old almost a veteran by comparison. After a half century opening stand, it all ended in tears when Yates hit the ball to cover and called for an impossible run, leaving his partner stranded well short.
Sussex called on seven bowlers within the first 30 overs but Yates and Will Rhodes were rarely troubled on a good pitch. Yates sailed past fifty off 58 balls and Rhodes, some time later, reached his half century off 53 balls.
Delray Rawlins bowled his left arm spin relatively economically and was denied one close lbw decision against Yates. His ten overs cost just 44 runs.
Having brought up the Warwickshire 200 in the 34th over with his second six off Henry Crocombe, Rhodes skied the same bowler to be caught at deep square leg. Yates, however, persevered and reached an admirable hundred off 105 balls, with 13 fours and one six. He eventually fell to Bradley Currie, edging to Tom Alsop for 114 in the 40th over. In the same over, Krunal Pandya looked highly dissatisfied with the caught behind decision that sent him back without scoring. Currie bowled at a lively pace and hit a good line and length just outside off stump.
Matt Lamb, looking badly out of touch, struggled to provide the acceleration needed in the closing overs but Michael Burgess, striking Archie Lenham for two consecutive leg-side sixes, did his best to compensate, reaching 50 off 45 balls. Having hit Karvelas for six just over Rawlins at long on, he was dropped next ball by the same fielder but was then caught off an edged skier for 58. Ethan Brookes scooped Karvelas tamely to short fine leg as the Warwickshire innings ended not with a bang but a whimper. We were, however, briefly introduced to Kai Smith who intriguingly plays as a non-bowling number eight batsman for the Bears. His one run off four balls is his only visible contribution after three games in the competition.
310-6 looked to be about a par score on a true pitch that maybe lacked pace. In the thirty degree plus heat, the Sussex bowlers had stuck to their task manfully. In addition to Rawlins and Currie (ten overs, 2-51), Karvelas did well to take 2-44 off his eight overs.