Arundel pitch thwarts Yorkshire and leaves Gale unhappy

Andrew Gale.
Andrew Gale.
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AT the point where two of the tree-lined lanes that lead towards Arundel’s charming Castle Ground meet, a sign can be found that reads, ‘Dead Slow’.

It is designed to warn any drivers new to this corner of Sussex – and especially those with larger vehicles – to take extra care at a sharp junction that can be tricky to negotiate.

After four days of largely attritional cricket in which graft was the order of the day rather than craft, said sign could also surely act as a warning to any first-time visiting cricketers in the future about the lifeless wicket that awaits them.

The pitch – on which just 1,018 runs were scored for the loss of 20 wickets in 367.5 overs as Yorkshire and Sussex toiled towards a tame draw – had all the pace of an asthmatic tortoise and there was an inevitability about the result from as early as the end of day two.

By then, both teams had seen enough of the wicket to realise that it was going to offer little encouragement to either bat or ball.

This proved to be very much the case, with yesterday’s final day being a largely sterile affair in which Luke Wells took almost four hours to creep past 50 and part-time spinners Adam Lyth and Jack Leaning were both given a rare chance to bowl.

Yorkshire’s use of eight bowlers did, at least, alleviate the boredom for a sparse crowd, the good folk of Sussex having realised that the game was only ever going to meander towards a draw and voted accordingly with their feet.

That is not to suggest the match had no high points. For a start, there was the marvellous unbeaten 161 that Jonny Bairstow eked out in a near seven-hour stay at the crease.

Leaning, in falling just one short of his own maiden first class century, also offered further evidence that he has a bright future with the White Rose county.

The problem, however, was that there simply wasn’t enough in the pitch to keep the punters coming back for more, hence the reduced numbers present on a final day that also saw the corporate area sit eerily empty as most of the Yorkshire side took the chance to turn their arm over. Captain Andrew Gale, for one, is happy that Yorkshire will not have to play again on a wicket with as few signs of life as Arundel.

“When it comes to marking my pitch report for this game, I will mark it as poor,” admitted Gale, whose side moved joint top of Division One with Nottinghamshire courtesy of the 10 points gleaned from their trip to Sussex.

“It was so slow that anything that happened out of the pitch, it happened slow enough to adapt. It turned a little bit, you could adapt. Same if it seamed a little bit.

“If you can’t get nicks that carry even halfway to slip then I think that is a poor first class pitch.

“Equally, if you can’t get a result in four days then it is poor, especially when you don’t lose any time out of the game.”

The visitors, to their credit, did try to make things happen in yesterday’s morning session with Gale once again employing the ‘Yorkshire Wall’, a field whereby six line up in the batsman’s eyeline hoping to elicit a rash shot and a pocketed catch.

Such inventive thinking deserved better reward than the two wickets that did fall, Azeem Rafiq – who may be on duty again at Warwickshire on Sunday due to Adil Rashid’s wife yet to give birth – having Chris Nash caught by Lyth at slip.

Lyth then claimed a couple of wickets during the afternoon, Rory Hamilton-Brown being caught at leg gully by Rafiq and then Wells being bowled by a delightful delivery before the captains eventually shook hands at 4.50pm.

Nottinghamshire will be without England Twenty20 opener Michael Lumb for four weeks due to an arm injury.

Lumb suffered the injury while making 68 against Middlesex on Tuesday, his first half-century of the LV= County Championship season, and is set to miss three games in that competition and six in the NatWest T20 Blast.