Friday 13 April 2012

Warwickshire v Somerset - Edgbaston: Day Two

Friday 13th April

Somerset closed day two of their LV= County Championship fixture against Warwickshire on 127-4, a lead of 31 runs.

Warwickshire had earlier resumed their first innings on 111-3 with Darren Maddy, unbeaten overnight on 24, immediately displaying aggressive intent with a sweetly driven four through the covers off the bowling of South African maestro Vernon Philander. In contrast, Varun Chopra looked to have adopted a vastly different approach to the obdurately watchful demonstration of technique and concentration that saw him reach 40 not out at the close of day one. Driving loosely at his first delivery of the day Chopra was comprehensively beaten by the outswing of Steve Kirby, though the looks of anguish on Somerset faces were soon replaced with delight as the Warwickshire opener duly edged his third ball faced to second slip off the same bowler.

Warwickshire v Somerset - view from the new media centre at Edgbaston

Former England wicket-keeper Tim Ambrose and Darren Maddy steadied the ship, before Maddy was next out with Warwickshire still six runs adrift of Somerset’s first innings total at 141-5. After making an impressive 42 the former Warwickshire captain fell lbw to Philander, who had looked perhaps at his most ineffective since announcing himself so spectacularly on the world stage for South Africa.

A hint of variable bounce had kept Somerset’s seamers interested throughout the morning session, though captain Marcus Trescothick wasted little time in turning to the left-arm spin of Irish youngster George Dockrell , conqueror in chief of Middlesex in Somerset’s season opener at Taunton last week. Warwickshire all-rounder Rikki Clarke, having replaced Maddy at the crease, had little intention of letting the 19 year old settle, advancing down the wicket to crash Dockrell back over his head for a brace of boundaries.

Ambrose came and went swiftly, driving on the up off the bowling of Dibble, who had consistently generated appreciable swing, to offer Jos Buttler a straightforward catch at extra cover. That brought Keith Barker to the crease and the all-rounder immediately looked to continue the policy of aggression toward Dockrell, who had lacked the assistance from the pitch that was so freely on offer at Taunton. Clarke had moved comfortably on to 27 at the other end, though his own attempt to dominate ultimately proved his undoing, bottom edging an attempted pull to an innocuous Trego delivery on to his stumps.

The lead by now was approaching 50, and with Somerset desperate to limit their deficit Arul Suppiah fumbled a regulation run-out opportunity against the dangerous Neil Carter. The mistake was not to prove costly, as Dockrell removed Carter with a relatively tame caught and bowled dismissal in the following over. Jeetan Patel came and went for a second ball duck, bringing Chris Wright to the crease at 196-9 and offering Somerset an opportunity to promptly wrap up the Warwickshire innings.

It proved to be an opportunity they were loath to take. Wright displayed many of the necessary batting qualities conspicuously absent from a number of top order batsmen throughout this match; solid in defence and intelligently rotating the strike with the recognised batsman Barker. There are few sights that provide greater frustration in cricket to a fielding side than a tail-end batsman stubbornly resisting, and tempers were visibly beginning to fray. Barker had offered a simple caught and bowled chance, had Kirby kept his footing, but with the bowler stumbling on his follow through the ball was able to land safe. Kirby, never one afraid to conceal his emotions, vented his anger by hurling a piece of debris from the pitch.

Warwickshire’s highest tenth wicket partnership against Somerset was a stand of 75 by Dermot Reeve and Tim Munton in 1990, but any designs of Barker and Wright to eclipse that effort terminated on 47 when Kirby returned to rearrange Barker’s furniture. Of particular interest, and no doubt encouragement, to England’s batsmen was the comfort with which Wright played Philander armed with the second new ball throughout his unbeaten 18.

Trescothick and Suppiah strode out to the middle to begin Somerset’s second innings looking to erase a deficit of 96, but hopes of doing so were soon dashed. In a repeat of the first innings Trescothick looked ill at ease against the left arm seam of Keith Barker, taking 13 balls to get off the mark before missing a straight one shortly after reaching double figures. There was still time for a solitary over from Jeetan Patel prior to the tea break, and the former New Zealand spinner drew four false shots from the six balls bowled, finding appreciable turn and simultaneously reminding his team-mates that they don’t want to be chasing too many batting last on this pitch.

Somerset went in to the tea break at 36-1, and upon the resumption of play Nick Compton opted to counter-attack and swiftly brought up his half century from 61 balls. Somerset reached their hundred and looked to be reasserting themselves in the match until a comical mix-up between the wickets saw Suppiah run out for 33. Suppiah played the ball toward silly mid-off and set off hurriedly. The resulting throw at the stumps missed, but some shrewd backing up by Neil Carter saw him gather the ball and throw down the stumps with an underarm dive in a fashion not quite befitting of his stature.

 James Hildreth completed a rotten match on a personal level as he found his middle stump uprooted by a beauty from Neil Carter for 3 to go with a golden duck in the first innings, and England limited overs wicket-keeper Craig Kieswetter also succumbed late in the day as he was bowled through the gate by the impressive Patel. Somerset withheld the more attacking minded duo of Peter Trego and Jos Buttler, sending night watchman George Dockrell out to the middle who duly held firm despite a host of Warwickshire fielders surrounding the bat.

Somerset, effectively 31-4 in their second innings, will be wholly reliant upon the aforementioned Compton, who remains unbeaten on 61 after displaying the kind of stoicism too easily neglected by his team-mates, and the lower order batting of the likes of Trego, Buttler and their first innings top scorer Vernon Philander. Warwickshire remain on top, but won’t want to chase much in excess of 180 on a pitch that is offering turn and a hint of variable bounce. The morning session on day three is likely to prove pivotal in the outcome of this intriguing contest. It may well be a case of who wants it more, and on the evidence provided thus far it is still rather difficult to be sure.

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