Second day: Warwickshire trail Sussex by 271 runs with five first-innings wickets remaining
A groin injury to Ashley Giles compounded a grim day for Warwickshire as Sussex took a firm grip on their match.
With their score standing on 145 for five, Warwickshire's lower order will have to bat with great fortitude to avoid the follow-on mark of 263 and their 19-match unbeaten run in Championship cricket is under threat. There is only so long a side can rely on astounding feats of resistance to bail them out and this game may well prove to be a match too far.
Giles was unable to take the field yesterday, instead disappearing to hospital for a scan. The results will be known this evening. It is highly unlikely that he will bowl again in this match, but he should be able to bat with a runner.
With the England team for the first Test against Bangladesh to be picked tomorrow, the injury is a worry but that game is still two weeks away and any suggestion that Giles is an injury doubt for the Ashes series, two months into the future, is premature.
"I first felt it last week but it stiffened up in the field yesterday and has become quite sore," he said.
"I've had an awesome start to the season, my best ever, so this is particularly disappointing but all the advice is not to run or bowl and as the problem is in my lead leg, I've just got to rest."
Inevitably Warwickshire missed Giles' bowling. With 24 wickets in the first three games, his influence has been enormous. They knew they would be without him soon, however, so the day was merely a taste of what is to come.
Sussex moved their score on from the overnight figure of 282 for six to 412 all out, but Warwickshire actually bowled faultlessly. They hardly offered a poor ball, with Dougie Brown, Heath Streak and Neil Carter particularly frugal but their attack lacked the devil to exploit the vagaries of the pitch and with Sussex's batsmen steadfastly refusing to attack, their attritional tactics met with little success.
Sussex's approach was derided as negative by many at the ground, but it was effective. Their final total is perhaps 100 better than par on this pitch and the inroads they made into the visitors' batting in the final session justified their caution.
For this is a poor pitch. It is no minefield and survival is far from impossible, but it is slow, low and unpredictable and batsmen can only prosper through constant vigilance and minimal aggression. It does not encourage positive or entertaining cricket.
James Kirtley's innings was especially turgid. Kirtley came to the crease as nightwatchman minutes before the close on the first day and lasted until almost an hour after lunch. In his 164-ball stay, an innings that lasted 53 overs, he managed just 30 runs and the game appeared to lose its momentum.
While Chris Adams (132 balls, seven fours) was batting, progress was relatively rapid. The Sussex captain drove two powerful boundaries and pulled another in one Brown over but he fell calling Kirtley for a third, victim of Streak's pinpoint throw from the third-man boundary, and Johannes van der Wath's cameo was ended when he cut a wide ball to point.
Alex Loudon, only called into the attack in the 116th over, turned the ball, albeit slowly, both ways and found his reward when Kirtley's joyless vigil was ended as he played-on, and Jason Lewry soon drove to mid-off.
Their run-rate may have been under three an over, but they did stretch their score into a potentially matchwinning total and will feel the end justified the means.
Warwickshire started well. Though both openers had some fortune, Nick Knight drove the ball sweetly through the covers while Michael Powell picked off the poor ball effectively.
Knight was harshly adjudged lbw, however, and the innings fell away. Ian Bell played across one which kept low and Powell was bowled through the gate by a beauty from Lewry. Loudon popped a return catch to Mushtaq Ahmed and Brown also fell, back instead of forward to another that failed to bounce as much as he anticipated.