England 290-8 dec (A N Cook 124)
v Warwickshire 31-1
Warwickshire’s depleted and overheated bowling attack rose admirably to the challenge on an energy-sapping opening day of their three-day friendly with England at Edgbaston.
England’s batsmen arrived at one of their favourite grounds aiming to harvest confidence from a bit of biffing about of a county attack.
A depleted county attack at that, with no specialist spinner. Jeetan Patel’s Bears career is over as his expected six-week absence with a torn knee ligament will take him into August after which he is likely to be touring Sri Lanka with New Zealand.
That is a big blow for the Bears as they head towards a string of much more meaningful encounters than this, starting against Sussex in the championship next week. But their immediate response was as impressive as it was big-hearted.
On a decent batting wicket with a ridiculously short boundary in heat which oppressed the bowlers all day, England mustered a tatty 290 for eight. Alastair Cook compiled a composed century – 124 from 190 balls – but, a flicker or two from Ravi Bopara apart, the rest was untidy.
Five wickets fell to three bowlers – Naqaash Tahir, Keith Barker and Jonathan Trott – with a combined first-class wicket tally this season of one. If it was encouraging for Warwickshire, it was hardly less so for Australia.
In the first session, England’s top-order were given a proper work-out as Chris Woakes and Boyd Rankin delivered testing new-ball spells and change bowlers Tahir and Barker maintained the pressure.
Barker, called up late when spinners Patel and Ant Botha (the latter with a minor knee injury) were ruled out, again showed promise. His first spell went for just 12 runs from five overs while Tahir nipped one away to remove Strauss for 31 (46 balls, five fours).
The England captain’s extravagant drive, edged to second slip, was his last, but far from first, loose shot. Bopara opened his account with two classy boundaries and helped Cook add 101 in 27 overs before departing tamely. Rankin, in a gallant post-lunch spell at the day’s hottest point, dropped short and Bopara spooned the ball to deep square where 17-year-old Ateeq Javid, playing only his second first-class match, held his nerve and the catch.
That brought Kevin Pietersen trudging to the crease. Eight balls later he was trudging back after edging Clarke to Tony Frost at first slip.
Cook motored on, leaving the ball judiciously and pulling it voraciously. A pull off Woakes, his 17th four, took him to his century from 158 balls and he looked in little trouble until tickling an off-cutter from Trott to the wicket-keeper.
Paul Collingwood, conversely, looked in no form at all and flapped about like a wet hen for 16 from 20 overs before missing a straight one to supply Barker’s maiden wicket.
Tahir, ever the enigma, then chipped in with two more wickets in a lovely spell after tea. Matt Prior chopped to gully and Andrew Flintoff, having moved promisingly to 19 from 17 balls, edged into the slips. When Graeme Swann lifted Clarke to mid-off, Strauss called his men in. They were looking highly unlikely to reach 379, the previous lowest first innings total at Edgbaston this season, by Hampshire in April.
Warwickshire were left with ten overs to bat and, after captain Ian Westwood nicked behind, Trott rounded off the day with a flurry of fours. Talks are understood to be underway regarding a switch whereby the Bears will play Australia for the Ashes while England take over Warwickshire’s remaining championship fixtures and their mouth-watering forthcoming Pro40 Division Two schedule.