LV COUNTY CHAMPIONSHIP: Warwickshire 285 (M J Powell 82, J O Troughton 76) v Surrey 41-1
Warwickshire squandered the chance to earn themselves some breathing space in the battle to avoid relegation as their brittle batting let them down once again.
At 193 for two, Warwickshire were well set to take control of this crucial match. Yet another damaging batting collapse saw eight wickets fall for just 92 runs and leave them with a total about 100 short of par.
More pertinently they picked up only two of the five batting bonus points available. With Kent breathing down their necks, such profligacy could prove costly.
Most galling, however, was the fact that at least six of the wickets owed more to poor batting than good bowling. Perhaps only Jonathan Trott of the top order could reflect that he had received a superb delivery, while some of his colleagues were significant contributors to their own downfall.
There is some truth in the club's assertion that several batsmen have enjoyed good seasons. Jim Troughton, Alex Loudon, Darren Maddy, Ian Westwood and Tim Ambrose have all played a number of fine innings. This is a team game, however, and the mix has not worked.
The day started well for Warwickshire. Not only did Tim Ambrose win the toss, but Surrey were obliged to omit Harbhajan Singh from their team. The Indian off-spinner had sustained a foot injury. Instead Surrey gave a debut to hastily-signed Murtaza Hussain, a 32-year-old off-spinner who has taken over 500 first-class wickets in Pakistan, but also has a British passport. It's fair to say he's no Harbhajan.
Yet despite a stand of 149 in 42 overs for the third wicket, Warwickshire failed to take advantage. They have now posted 400 in the first innings only once since the game at New Road at the start of May. For a team that maintains its strength is in its batting, these collapses are becoming a little too frequent.
Though Ian Westwood went early, edging to slip as he prodded at one on off stump, Michael Powell looked in good form. This was only his eighth championship game since Mark Greatbatch took over as director of cricket, but Powell (156 balls, 12 fours) was confident from the start, cutting pleasingly and leaving the ball well outside off stump. This was his first championship half-century for two years, but the manner and style with which he made his runs suggested he has much to offer given greater opportunity.
Jonathan Trott's ill fortune continued. Though he hinted at a return to form with one sumptuous on-drive, he fell victim to a fine delivery on off stump that left him a fraction.
Troughton (128 balls, 12 fours and a six) was never at his most fluent. Dropped on 16 — by Stewart Walters — at third slip off Jade Dernbach, he survived another chance on 70 when he flashed at Matt Nicholson. He battled through, however, slashing one six over point and was somewhat unfortunate to glove a delivery passing down the legside to end his innings.
His dismissal unleashed the domino effect chain of destruction that has been a characteristic of Warwickshire's season.
Powell mis-timed a pull and spooned a simple catch to mid-on, Alex Loudon, his feet glued to the crease, slashed horribly to gully before Ant Botha simply missed an attempted sweep. Alfonso Thomas guided a wide ball to point, where it was very well caught, before Tim Ambrose, who had been batting sensibly, pulled a short ball into the hands of deep square leg.
Chris Woakes made a fine start, pulling his first ball in championship cricket for four off his fellow teenager Chris Jordan, but fell soon afterwards. Surprised by pace and bounce, he steered to third slip.
Their bowlers started as well as at any time this summer, however. Neil Carter, bowling with excellent pace and control, soon had Scott Newman caught behind off a beauty that left him a fraction, and took the edge of Mark Ramprakash's bat only to see the ball fly between the slips and gully to the boundary.
It was Jonathan Batty who enjoyed even more of the luck, however. Reprieved by Powell at first slip, a comfortable chance off Thomas, he was also the beneficiary of outrageous fortune when a delivery from Carter rolled on to the stumps off the face of his bat but did not dislodge a bail.
Meanwhile Paul Horton, the Lancashire opener, has signed a new deal that will keep him at Old Trafford until the end of 2009. Warwickshire had earlier expressed an interest in signing the player.