Second day: Warwickshire trail Hampshire by 245 runs with five first-innings wickets in hand
A stirring counter-attack from Jim Troughton kept Warwickshire's heads above water at the halfway point of their Championship match against Hampshire.
The visitors have enjoyed the best of this match. Despite being inserted, they piled up a large first-innings score and have made deep inroads into the Warwick-shire batting. It will take great resilience to deny them.
Yet Troughton's glorious batting has sustained home hopes that a draw is salvageable, and provided rich entertainment on a slow-moving day's cricket.
Troughton, 75 not out, has endured a chequered career. At his best he is swashbuckling; at his worst he is infuriating. The problem is, he can show both sides within the same over and seldom hints at permanence.
Here, however, against an attack containing perhaps the greatest bowler to draw breathe and on a pitch deteriorating steadily, he showed only positive qualities. The rasping drives and sweeps were still there; but they were fused with an impressive solidity that none of his colleagues could match.
Troughton's innings was not the only bright moment on a bleak day for Warwickshire. Alex Loudon bowled impressively to record the fifth five-wicket haul of his career - and the third for Warwickshire - while Dougie Brown deserved four wickets for his unstinting efforts.
One can never dismiss Warwickshire's chances - their resilience is well-documented - but they will need to produce something quite special to avoid defeat on a dry pitch providing copious assistance to Shane Warne and exhibiting signs of uneven bounce.
Warwickshire could do with asking themselves some searching questions. Most pertinently they must reflect on why it is that pitches always seem more lively when the opposition are bowling. If they truly believe it is just bad luck they are either suffering from cursed fortune or grand delusion.
Earlier in the day the appropriately named John Crawley (258 balls, five fours) moved inexorably towards his century. He added 31 in 30 overs yesterday at a pace a glacier would have considered tardy.
Indeed, so tranquil a place had the outfield become that a pheasant strolled unperturbed for some time before, losing interest, it wandered away.
Finally, on 96 and with a century there for the taking, Crawley was defeated. Loudon, producing a sharplyturning, much quicker off-break, had his man and Warwickshire, with the final ball of the 130th over - the period in which bonus points can be won - had a second point.
Crawley had done his job, however. His innings was key in guiding Hampshire towards a total that may well prove match-winning. It was certainly some distance larger than Heath Streak would have anticipated when he inserted them.
Nic Pothas added some impetus but Loudon and Brown kept Warwickshire in the match. Loudon, bowling with more confidence than at any time this season, utterly bamboozled Warne and James Bruce with his 'doosra' and looked to be recapturing his rhythm after an indifferent start to the season.
Warwickshire's late joy in the field was a mixed blessing, however. Any pitch offering assistance to Loudon is sure to prove responsive to Warne while the uneven bounce exploited by the redoubtable Brown was soon to assist Hampshire's seamers.
Several batsmen played a part in their own downfall.
Nick Knight fell to a loose cut, Jonathan Trott played across the line and Michael Powell's unwise sweep presented an easy catch off the top edge.
There was some fine bowling too, however. Dimitri Mascarenhas produced two magnificent deliveries for Ian Westwood and Loudon. The former's loose drive was defeated by one that nipped back exceptionally sharply to clean bowl the batsman.
The latter played inside one that swung in, pitched on middle and hit off. The word 'unplayable' is over-used but this delivery just about qualified.
Troughton (149 balls, ten fours) stood defiant. His driving on the off side, off both feet and against pace and seam, was a delight, while the crispness with which he swept Warne demonstrated a great eye and great confidence.