Warwickshire's promotion aspirations were dented last night as Sussex sentenced them to a five-wicket defeat in Division Two of the totesport League.
Warwickshire's brittle batting was once again their undoing. An enterprising stand of 73 in overs for the fifth wicket between Michael Powell and Alex Loudon breathed some life into the innings, but a lower order collapse left the hosts about 25 short of a really competitive total.
A disciplined effort in the field briefly threatened to snatch the game for the hosts. But the level-headed experience of Murray Goodwin (113 deliveries, eight fours) thwarted their hopes as the visitors completed a comfortable victory with 25 deliveries to spare. Sussex remain on top of the table; Warwickshire, with a game in hand, are six points adrift.
Batsmen of both sides struggled for fluency on a surface unsuited to one-day cricket. The desperately slow pitch, also used in Saturday's Cheltenham and Gloucester semi-final, offered too much help to the slower bowlers and Warwickshire were disadvantaged by the lack of a second quality spinner.
It was the part-time leftarm spin of Michael Yardy that proved most effective. Yardy, who had bowled just 16 overs in the competition this season before last night, recorded the third best figures by a Sussex bowler in the history of this competition and the best from anyone in the League this season.
It was not just the spin Yardy obtained that proved so problematic. The ball appeared to stop upon pitching, rendering Warwickshire's attempts to manoeuvre the ball fraught with danger and a succession of batsmen mistimed simple catches to the infield. The final six wickets fell for just 42 as the Bears failed to bat out their overs.
Although Neil Carter plundered 16 from the opening four balls of the match, Warwickshire were on the back foot from the start against a probing opening spell from Pakistan swing bowler Naved Rana.
Nick Knight fell in the bowler's first over, hooking to long leg in the mistaken belief that the bouncer would be called no-ball on the grounds of height. Carter soon followed, chipping a slower ball to point, while Trott prodded at a good one on off stump and Troughton, never comfortable against the swing, edged a push at a ball outside off.
For the second game in succession Powell (58 balls, three fours) came to the rescue. Powell's calm head and experience, allied to some cheeky reverse sweeps and graceful drives, showed what Warwickshire have been missing in recent weeks and he must surely have forced his way back into the Championship side. Luke Parker is likely to be the unfortunate man to make way.
Powell found the perfect foil in Loudon (74 balls, four fours) who drove and pulled with a grace that defied the awkward conditions until he was undone by a clever quicker ball that beat his outside edge.
The importance of their stand was soon placed into context as the lower order succumbed limply, unable to deal with the lack of pace on the ball.
With Warwickshire requiring early wickets, Knight went on the offensive, posting three slips and allowing Makhaya Ntini seven overs in his first spell.
The bowler responded with another hostile display, defying the conditions to generate life not available to other bowlers. He plucked out the middle stump of Matt Prior with one that cut back, before Richard Montgomerie edged to the full slip cordon.
A partnership of 61 in 15 overs between Chris Adams and Murray Goodwin appeared to have settled matters. Both were timing the ball as well as anyone, but an unnecessary heave to mid-on saw Adams depart. With Yardy - victim of a fine catch from Tony Frost standing-up to the wicket - and Carl Hopkinson following shortly afterwards, Warwickshire were back in with a chance.
Trott's medium pace, preferred in the attack to the swifter James Anyon, justified his captain's faith with a tight spell and, in partnership with Loudon's impressive offspin, put such a stranglehold on the innings that nine overs in the middle of the innings conceded just 17.
But an assault from Robin Martin-Jenkins (43 balls, one four and a straight six off Trott), and Goodwin's excellence, slammed the door shut. Goodwin was the only man pass 50 in the two games on this pitch.
It was a quality innings and, after his superb century against Warwickshire at Hove, augurs ill ahead of the Championship game between the counties beginning here tomorrow.