Edgbaston (second day): Middlesex 297 (E T Smith 85, E C Joyce 60, D L Maddy 4-25) v Warwickshire 272-4 (T Frost 54 no, I J L Trott 50)
One of the great truisms of life is that as one door closes, ten more slam shut in your face.So it proved to Warwickshire yesterday.
A club struggling to retain equilibrium after the loss of two overseas players were dealt an even more damaging blow.
Darren Maddy, their captain and key all-rounder, sustained a severely broken thumb and will be out for several weeks. With the Twenty20 Cup just around the corner, that is a desperate blow.
Maddy, batting fluently at the time, was struck on the right thumb as he came forward to a delivery from Middlesex seamer, Tim Murtagh that bounced more than expected.
The batsman's pain was obvious and immediate. He flung his bat away and, before the physio could reach him, was on his way off the pitch. X-rays suggest the thumb is broken in two places and an operation is a distinct possibility. Were that the case he could be absent for up to six weeks.
Quite apart from losing their captain and the man heading their bowling averages, Warwickshire have also lost one of the two top-order batsmen to have prospered so far this season.
There is no obvious replacement and the loss of Sanath Jayasuiya and Maddy so close to the start of the Twenty20 leaves the batting hopelessly light for that format of the game in particular.
In the short term Warwickshire will be captained by Ian Westwood. Westwood's form is another concern, however. His innings yesterday was quite tortuous. Dropped twice, on three and nine, as he prodded at deliveries outside off stump, he also played and missed a dozen more times. Finally, he was put out of his misery as he hooked to long-leg.
While his gutsy personality is not disputed, Westwood's grim form does not currently justify a place in the side. Having scored just 96 in eight championship innings this season, he now averages 12. His career championship average of under 27 does not instil huge confidence, either.
Despite all that, however, and a mid-innings stumble, Warwickshire still ended the second day pretty much on top. A determined and unbroken fifth-wicket stand of 105 in 39 overs between Tony Frost and Ant Botha was the key, but Michael Powell and Jonathan Trott also batted well, and Warwickshire resume on the third day only 25 behind.
They may require a substantial lead, however. Maddy will certainly play no further part in this game while Monde Zondeki will bat if necessary but will not bowl.
Indeed, it is now expected that Zondeki will return to South Africa at the end of this game. One way or another, those Warwickshire youngsters clamouring for opportunity are likely to get it.
It was some more seasoned performers who earned them the initiative in this game. After an Ian Salisbury googly accounted for Middlesex's last man, Danny Evans, with the visitors three short of a third bowling point, Warwickshire began the tricky business of negotiating a highly unpredictable Middlesex attack.
Maddy looked in fine form. Driving and cutting beautifully, he punished the speedy but wayward Dirk Nannes for a series of boundaries. With him sidelined and Westwood dismissed, however, it was left to Trott and Powell to prosper.
Trott (53 balls, ten fours), who on 17 became the fifth fastest man to 5,000 first-class runs for Warwickshire, also looked in golden touch. His driving was a delight but, with his half-century secured, he fell for the sucker punch and hooked a bouncer down the throat of long leg.
Powell (90 balls, nine fours), too, looked set to go on and make a major contribution. At one stage he plundered three boundaries in succession off Nannes but, as has been the case all season, he failed to reach the score his form demands when beaten by a fine delivery that nipped back off the pitch.
At that stage, Warwickshire had lost three wickets for one run in 24 deliveries. But Middlesex will reflect that they missed the opportunity to stamp their authority on the game. With the muggy conditions helping the bowlers find prodigious swing and the bounce from the Pavilion End becoming ever more irregular, they should have applied far more pressure. But though 20-year-old Evans and 22-year-old Vernon Philander produced the odd beauty, generally their line was too inconsistent to build pressure.
But it was their inability to hold on to a series of regulation chances in the slip cordon that cost them most. The failure of Ben Scott, a wicketkeeper more in the Gerard Brophy mould than the Keith Piper, to even move for a straightforward outside edge offered by Frost when he had scored just one, was the most damaging error.
Frost (134 balls, seven fours) endured a torrid start. Struck a thundering blow on the grill of the helmet by a sharp bouncer from Danny Evans, he played and missed regularly for some time.
Gradually, however, he began to regain his touch and lent into a series of those graceful cover drives and flicks through mid-wicket that make his batting such a joy to watch.
As ever, he appeared to reserve his best performances for times when his team were under pressure and, shortly before bad light brought an early close, he recorded his first championship half-century since June 2006.
Botha lent support, but Warwickshire know they need to establish a lead of around 100. With nine fit men, the next couple of days, let alone the next few weeks, could prove mighty challenging.