Uxbridge: (first day, Warwickshire won toss): Warwickshire (271-5) v Middlesex
The day may have started with disappointing news but Warwickshire reached stumps at Uxbridge last night with their noses in front and their eyes on new targets.
While Alex Gidman has informed Ashley Giles, Warwickshire’s director of cricket, that he will not be joining the club, there is hope that they may have more luck with other potential acquisitions.
Warwickshire have made an official 28-day approach for Middlesex Dawid Malan and opened talks with Durham fast bowler Graham Onions. While it will not be Malan’s leg-spin bowling that interests them on the strength of his performance, the 20-year-old is certainly an exciting prospect with the bat. He is, however, sure to attract interest from a host of counties.
Meanwhile Warwickshire’s attempts to lure Onions from Durham received a boost from a most unexpected source. The 25-year-old was omitted from Durham’s side to face Surrey in the current round of championship games and is understood to be somewhat nonplussed. While it would be premature to presume too much from such factors, talks between the player and Warwickshire are understood to have progressed surprisingly well. It is worth noting, however, that he too is on interest to several other counties, including Worcestershire.
The news from Gidman is a blow, however. Warwickshire were very confident that they had secured the 27-year-old batsman a few weeks ago but understand that he experienced a major change of heart after talking to Gloucestershire’s coach-elect, John Bracewell.
Gidman joins a long line of players who have declined to join the club in recent years but it would be unwise to read too much into his decision. While Edgbaston was viewed as an unattractive environment this time last year, its reputation is changing. They are simply competing for much sought-after players. The ambition is surely admirable.
Warwickshire started poorly on the pitch, too. After winning the toss on a true pitch, they slumped to 78 for four before a fine partnership of 157 in 55 overs between Jim Troughton and Tony Frost revived them.
The pair batted splendidly. Forced to be watchful by a highly impressive Middlesex attack, they gradually opened their wings and produced some delightful strokes as the bowlers tired and the pitch lost any life.
These situations seem to being the best out of Frost (186 balls, 14 fours). Leaving the ball well, he also lent into a series of typically graceful cover drives, swept the spinners neatly and defended with aplomb. He brought up his 50 thanks to a rare moment of charity from old Staffordshire and Warwickshire team-mate Alan Richardson, too. Defending a delivery back to the bowler Frost was bemused to see Richardson hurl it back in the direction of the keeper, but far too high and to the boundary for four.
It was some surprise when Frost missed a lavish drive against the new ball, but Troughton survives to fight another day. Much more compact and defensively sound than has sometimes been the case, Troughton (176 balls, seven fours) withstood a barrage of short balls and fought the ever present temptation to fiddle outside off stump. He survived one sharp chance, lapping to short-leg, when he had 32, but this was a fine defensive innings and just what his team required.
Perhaps Warwickshire’s early problems were partially self-inflicted. While Middlesex bowled beautifully, maintaining an immaculate line and length and finding enough movement off the pitch to trouble the best, several of the batsmen contributed to their own downfall.
Michael Powell pushed at one he could have left off the back foot while Navdeep Poonia (74 balls) undid the sterling defensive work he had done to that point by driving at one leaving him outside off stump. Jonathan Trott, who had also looked in fine touch, drove without moving his feet at an outswinger moments before lunch. Only Darren Maddy could claim he was unfortunate as there was a strong hint of an inside edge in his leg-before dismissal.
Alex Loudon was among the spectators. Appearing relaxed and happy, the 27-year-old who slipped into a premature retirement at the end of last season admitted he missed batting but reflected that, in retrospect, he had never really enjoyed bowling. Intriguingly, he also admitted that the idea of playing first-class cricket as an amateur had grown in appeal...