Same old, same old for County as Warwickshire edge in front

There is a real danger that it could be a case of same story, different day.

By Alec Swann
Monday, 16th June 2014, 6:39 pm
Rob Newton's fine innings ended when he was caught on the boundary for 114
Rob Newton's fine innings ended when he was caught on the boundary for 114

When Warwickshire were reduced to 102-3 in the afternoon session on day two of the LV= County Championship encounter, still 210 adrift of Northamptonshire, the odds on the hosts’ losing streak being ended would’ve shortened significantly.

But as we’ve seen before, on more than one occasion, the tentative grip was loosened and now it is the visitors who have the power to set the agenda.

A fourth wicket partnership of 138 shifted the momentum and it will take a strong effort tomorrow morning to ensure a serious first innings advantage isn’t conceded.

For the first hour or so of the Warwickshire innings, with the pitch looking decidedly flat and the bowling unthreatening, it wasn’t hard to picture a scenario where the County would be batting after tea time tomorrow with saving the game the only option available.

Taking into account the past few games where the County’s attack have been flogged, and with Varun Chopra and William Porterfield in no bother at all, a sizeable lead could well have been on the visitors’ mind.

But the fight that finally peeked its head above the parapet yesterday did so again in the shape of Steven Crook and James Middlebrook.

The pair combined in a tight spell which saw three wickets fall as the score advanced slowly from 81-0 to 102-3 and just as patience reaps rewards with the bat, so the same is true with the ball.

Middlebrook can generally be relied upon to produce some no frills consistency and like Jeetan Patel on day one he plugged away from the Wantage Road end with accuracy and guile his chief weapons.

As for Crook, after the disconsolate figure cut at Trent Bridge a month ago, this was a resurrection of sorts and he deserved the reward of Porterfield fencing at one that ended up in Middlebrook’s mitts at second slip.

That started things off and not too long after, the off-spinner had Chopra caught at the wicket and Laurie Evans, who looked way out of touch, well stumped.

That brought to the wicket Jim Troughton, playing his first Championship game for 12 months because to back problems, and he and Sam Hain stabilised the listing vessel to the point that when tea arrived, the contest was back on level terms.

But as the evening session progressed, the balance of power was gradually tipped in Warwickshire’s favour.

Troughton, understandably cagey as he started out, grew into his work and his increasing confidence was emphasised by the manner in which he reached his half-century with a pair of crunching cover drives, one of the back foot and the other off the front, off the under-par Maurice Chambers.

At the other end, the 18-year-old Hain was chugging along in a mature fashion and his maiden first-class half century was well deserved.

Possessing a predominantly back foot method and a preference for hitting the ball square of the wicket, the Australian-raised number four stuck to his guns against seam and spin alike.

The duo’s stand ended when Troughton needlessly slog-swept at Middlebrook and top-edged to leg slip but that was as good as it got and when the close arrived, the deficit stood at only 38 with Hain 13 from his century.

Earlier in the piece, any hopes the hosts had of substantially increasing their overnight total were extinguished in the opening half an hour.

Olly Stone became Chris Woakes’ fourth victim when he edged to second slip off the back foot and Rob Newton, in search of a few bonus runs, skied Chris Wright to long-on.