Neil Carter provided a timely reminder of his all-round talents as Warwickshire seized the initiative on the second day of the champion-ship game against Middlesex.
Carter's second championship half-century of the season - a typically swift affair - helped his side to the brink of full bonus points before the bowlers made early inroads into the hosts' top order. The pitch remains slow, however, and it will take a monumental effort from Warwickshire to bowl them out twice.
Carter is keen to remain at Warwickshire. Though he is out of contract at the end of the season, he and Ashley Giles have discussed the possibility of a full one-year deal followed by a limited-overs contract in 2010 and both parties appear keen. He has, at present, no in
terest whatsoever in joining Glamorgan, the club who have made a formal approach for his services.
The sticking point for Warwickshire may be Carter's desire to play in the Indian Cricket League. Aged 33, Carter is understandably keen to maximise his earning potential over the final years of his career and will consider offers from both the rebel league and the official Indian Premier League. He did sign for the ICL last year but was ultimately not required.
Initial discussions would suggest the club are happy for him to take part in the rebel tournament this October and next March. Indeed, it might be constituted as an infringement of his employment rights if they prevented him. But while the Indian cricket board remain quite so violently opposed to any player, or club, with any involvement with the league, Warwickshire will have to think long and hard before allowing the club's status for future competitions to be jeopardised. Indeed, as things stand, the England and Wales Cricket Board are threatening to ban any player who participates in a 'rebel' league.
Certainly Carter remains an effective player at this level. Indeed, with Twenty20 cricket rising in its importance all the time, he is also a valuable player. He has played in every Twenty20 game Warwickshire have contested (he requires just two more appearances to break the consecutive appearance record for the format) and is one of very few men to take 50 wickets in the tournament's history.
Carter (62 balls, nine fours and a six) played the dominant role in a partnership of 90 for the eighth wicket with Ant Botha. Striking the ball cleanly, this was a surprisingly cultured innings from Carter and included a number of well-timed drives. Seamer Danny Evans was punished particularly severely, conceding 27 from 11 balls included a pulled six, but Carter also suggested an improving technique against the spinners with a delightful reverse sweep to the boundary off Indian off-spinner Murali Kartik. Botha (126 balls, nine fours) lent more measured support in compiling his third half-century of the championship season.
The pair compensated for the early loss of two wickets. Jim Troughton (193 balls, seven fours) added just [fb01]ve to his overnight score before playing across the line, before Ian Salisbury played-on as he attempted a footless heave through the off side.
Finally Botha fell to a brilliant catch at leg slip as he attempted a leg glance and Carter perished to an outside edge as he aimed another expansive drive at the admirable Tim Murtagh. Chris Martin resisted for six deliveries but never threatened to prosper and, when he fell edging to slip, Warwickshire fell seven runs short of maximum batting bonus points.
Still, from the depths of 77 for four at lunch on the [fb01]rst day, Warwickshire could feel more than satis[fb01]ed with their total and soon dem-onstrated its value as Middlesex slipped to 45 for three.
Chris Woakes bounced back from his maul-ing in the Twnety20 Cup quarter-final with an excellent spell of bowling. He struck with just his second delivery, Nick Compton missing a straight one, and would have had Ed Joyce before the batsman had scored had Botha been able to cling on to a low chance at slip. As it was, Woakes beat the bat on several occasions, moved the ball both ways and showed there are no lasting scars from his Twenty20 experience.
It was not an impressive performance from Joyce, however. The Middlesex captain, a target of Warwickshire, demonstrated an alarming propensity to fiddle at balls outside the off stump and soon departed pushing at one he should have left.
Dawid Malan failed to shine, either. An uncertain prod at a lifting ball from Chris Martin resulted in an inside edge rolling on to the stumps and, with the pitch showing a few signs of uneven bounce at one end, Middlesex were glad that bad light brought them early respite.