Olly Stone’s home Specsavers County Championship debut for Warwickshire has been a while coming but the 24-year-old seized the moment in spectacular fashion with a six-wicket blast against Sussex at Edgbaston.
In reply to the home side’s 299, Sussex closed a rain-affected third day on 194 for six with Stone’s figures 13-1-52-6. The fast-bowler, who signed for Warwickshire from Northamptonshire in 2016, spent his first year at Edgbaston in rehab from major knee surgery but the lay-off has done nothing to diminish his pace and potency, judging by his demolition of Sussex’s top six. His excellence is likely to have arrived in a stale-mate, however, in this Division Two opener in Birmingham. Following the loss of 150 overs to the weather in the first three days, a draw surely beckons. After resuming on the third morning on 284 for nine, Warwickshire ended one run short of a third batting point. Tim Ambrose (81, 116 balls, ten fours) and Chris Wright (27 not out, 80 balls, four fours) took their tenth-wicket stand to 77 in 22 overs before the former nicked a superb leg-cutter from Ishant Sharma. Sharma, making his Sussex debut, ended with three for 53 and David Wiese four for 56. In reply, Sussex advanced to 30 without loss, Philip Salt launching their reply with a crisp 29 (35 balls, four fours), before Stone came on and dismissed Salt with his second ball, leading-edged to point. Then came a sensational burst of four for 11 in 13 balls from the Norfolk-born player. Stiaan van Zyl, Luke Wells and Luke Wright (first ball) edged behind and Harry Finch top-edged a pull straight upwards and watched it land in the hands of short-leg Sam Hain. Sixth-wicket pair Ben Brown and Michael Burgess executed a fightback with a stand of 78 in 18 overs before Stone returned to end Burgess’s forceful innings (48, 45 balls nine fours) via a fourth catch for wicketkeeper Tim Ambrose. Brown, in his first championship innings as Sussex skipper, defied impressively and was still unbeaten on 43 (89 balls, five fours) at the close. With solid support from Ollie Robinson, he skilfully negotiated an awkward late eight-over session which started at 6.10pm. A draw beckons - but so too does history for Stone if he is fast out of the blocks on the last morning. He could become only the fourth player, after Harry Howell, Eric Hollies and Jack Bannister, to take an all-ten for Warwickshire in first-class cricket. Sussex batsman Burgess said: “I was pleased to score some runs, though disappointed to get out when I did, just as rain was starting to fall. Olly Stone bowled quite quickly and well and they just had one of those spells where we seemed to keep nicking them and they seemed to keep catching them. “I went in at an interesting time when a few wickets had gone down and said to Ben [Brown] let’s just see it through to lunch and then go again and we managed to do that. I like to be positive and if a ball is there to hit, I’ll hit it, and a couple came along early on which I managed to put away. I like batting with Ben because he is strong and confident and always talking to you.”