When Warwickshire start their vital match against Yorkshire at Scarborough tomorrow, Ian Westwood will face a tricky decision if he wins his sixth successive toss in the championship.
To bat or not to bat, that is the question. Taking first innings is the norm at North Marine Road – but the Bears’ recent history up there suggests it’s a bad, bad idea.
On their last two visits, Heath Streak and Darren Maddy respectively called correctly and chose to bat. Warwickshire suffered two of their most embarrassing defeats of modern times.
In 2006, Ian Westwood and Mark Wagh found themselves opening on the first morning in the most bizarre circumstances. Visibility was so impaired by a thick sea mist that play was stopped several times. Meanwhile, due to some crossed wires, the openers’ lug-holes were assailed by bursts of PA announcements, sometimes just as the bowler was running in, from a bowls tournament up the road.
Westwood and Wagh still managed to put on 49 but then it went spectacularly pear-shaped. Warwickshire collapsed to 122 for nine before Streak and Paul Harris eked the total up to 201.
In reply, Yorkshire piled up 536, during which, for an hour on the second afternoon, the fielding disintegrated to perhaps the shabbiest exhibition by any Bears team with Streak powerless to prevent a string of fumbles and drops.
The home side then bowled Warwickshire out for 239 as 17-year-old spinner Adil Rashid took six for 67 on his first-class debut. It was a real thrashing and a portent of the downward spiral to relegation in 2008 but the powers-that-be at Warwickshire were blind to it, insisting that the underlying progress under director of cricket Mark Greatbatch was substantial.
Twelve months later the Bears, in freefall to Division Two, returned to Scarborough – and were tonked by an innings and 210 runs, the 11th biggest defeat in their history.
Again Warwickshire won the toss and batted. At 37 for five this looked a poor decision. The Bears were 129 all out to which Yorkshire replied with 561 for seven declared. Then Warwickshire were dismissed for 222 as Darren Gough and Matthew Hoggard harvested a combined eight for 80. It was a second successive dose of embarrassment for Warwickshire’s many travelling supporters in east Yorkshire.
How much baggage the Bears will carry this week from that double-thrashing remains to be seen. It is a very different team now with Tim Ambrose the only survivor to have play in both of those games.
Director of cricket Ashley Giles has never even been to Scarborough, never mind played cricket there.
Time for the Bears to hit back, then, in a match of major importance to the relegation struggle. Losing the toss might be a good start.
n?Buoyed by their last-ball win over Essex in the NatWest Pro40 on Sunday, Worcestershire begin their quest for a first victory of the county championship season today against Nottinghamshire at New Road.
They include Jack Shantry in their bowling attack but Matt Mason misses out through injury and Gareth Batty will take no part after Steve Rhodes decided to go with seven batsmen for the match.