Gloucester (day 3 of 4): Gloucestershire 420 (C G Taylor 104, C M Spearman 95, W T S Porterfield 63, J E Anyon 4-86) v Warwickshire 399-8 (T Frost 141 no, J O Troughton 79, I J Westwood 68) .
It somehow seems fitting that Tony Frost was sitting on a tractor when Ashley Giles asked him to come out of retirement.
Not for Frost a fancy Porsche or Lamborghini. In an age of millionaire sportsmen demanding ever more for ever less, Frost is a refreshing antidote.
He has never been a glamorous cricketer. With his approachable manner, his everyman physique and a haircut that has remained relentlessly unfashionable, he appears almost a different species to the likes of Kevin Pietersen and Shane Warne.
But how Frost can bat. Over the weekend he again showed those twin strengths of patience and grace to rescue Warwickshire from a position of some peril. His career-best score – a chanceless affair – may have been slow, but it was littered with the graceful cuts, flicks and drives that have characterised his batting throughout a most unusual career.
When a hip injury curtained Frost’s career in 2006, it left a batting talent somewhat unfulfilled. Though he had often performed admirably, a career average of 28.12 was scant reward for the colleague the Warwickshire bowlers often describe as having the most time, and the best technique, of the batsmen at the club.
Since Giles asked him to stand-in for Tim Ambrose, however, Frost has scored runs in abundance. As things stand, he is averaging 295 in the championship and nearly every run has been made in a match-defining situation. He has been outstanding and without him Warwickshire’s season would have been wretched.
This was not his most entertaining innings. The grim match situation and a desperately slow pitch resulted in attritional cricket, but Frost (304 balls, 15 fours) maintained his concentration and saved his side from the prospect of following-on.
At 32 for three that was a distinct possibility. Jon Lewis delivered a superb new ball spell while Jim Troughton (236 balls, six fours) undid much of his sterling contribution with the bat by running out his captain, Ian Westwood (179 balls, ten fours). At least both men made their first half-centuries of the season, though Troughton finally lost patience and edged a loose drive.
With them gone, however, and Ant Botha never settling, Warwickshire required another 58 to avoid the follow-on with only four wickets in hand. With calm support from Neil Carter, however, Frost took his team past that mark as a Gloucestershire attack shorn of Lewis (shoulder) were rendered utterly without bite.
Chris Woakes impressed with both his timing and composure in helping Warwickshire secure a third bowling point, while Naqaash Tahir has already helped add 83; a ninth-wicket county record against this opposition.
The day was all about Frost, however. He may be only 32, but the hip remains an issue and he knows this return to the side will not last long. Besides, he’s missing his role on the groundstaff too much.
“I love the club and I’ll help them out any way I can,” Frost said last night, “whether that is verti-draining [which is what he was doing when Giles wandered over and asked him about helping out this season] or batting.
“I’m really enjoying batting, but there’s no way I’ll still be doing this when I’m 37. I don’t know how long I can go on and I’m not really thinking about it. Batting is fine but keeping can be quite painful. The only niggle is that I worry I could mess up my career on the groundstaff. I really enjoyed it last year and I do miss the lads now.
“I don’t think I’m doing anything differently to how I was in 2006. I had worked on a few mental things before that season – just keeping a clear mind and not fiddling with my technique, really – and was averaging more than 60 that season when I retired. Maybe the knowledge that I was have another career is giving me the freedom to play without any pressure?
“My hip was sore at the end of 2006. I wasn’t enjoying it, either. I was scoring runs but dreading going into work. I don’t want to go into the reasons why – we all know. I don’t regret it, either.
“Things are totally different now. There’s a much better atmosphere and I couldn’t fault Ashley Giles or Allan Donald; they’ve been brilliant.”
Fine though his batting has been, Frost did drop a couple of sitters with the gloves. William Porterfield and Chris Taylor, on 98, both benefited as Frost failed to cling on to outside edges from the admirable but luckless Carter.
“These things happen,” Frost said. “I’ve said sorry and I’ll buy him some Champagne. He’s still talking to me.”
The drops will surely prove to matter little. This drab, lifeless pitch could suck the life spirit out of the best of bowlers and is utterly unsuitable for county cricket. It will take an almost unimaginable series of events to produce a victory for either side.
Meanwhile, Middlesex have now made a formal approach to speak to Warwickshire seamer Jimmy Anyon about a move to Lord’s at the end of the season.