Edgbaston (final day of four) Warwickshire 476-9 dec (I J L Trott 181, D L Maddy 73, I D K Salisbury 64) & 241-4 dec (D L Maddy 138, T Frost 54) v Derbyshire 474 (C J L Rogers 248 no, P M Borrington 62, I D K Salisbury 5-99) Warwickshire (12pts) drew with Derbyshire (11pts).
Perhaps it is the nature of cricket supporters never to be satisfied. This time last year most Warwickshire supporters could only have dreamt of a team that was so hard to beat, yet now they are frustrated by Warwickshire’s inability to win more often.
The championship draw against Derbyshire means that Warwickshire have still not won at Edgbaston since April 2007 (against Sussex).
Furthermore, if their final home game of the season (against Glamorgan) is drawn, it will be the first time in history that a whole championship season at Edgbaston has been completed without an outright result. This has not been a riveting summer.
Yet Warwickshire still lie second in the table. Though they have not won in four games, they are the only unbeaten side in the land and claimed full bonus points for the first time in five games. The chasing pack may be gaining, but Warwickshire are still in the promotion places and Northants’ failure to secure victory against Glamorgan may prove crucial.
The impression Warwickshire give, however, is of a side that is running out of steam. While they have become more resilient, they appear to lack the quality to flourish. Even if they do secure promotion, it is hard to see how they can survive at the higher level.
Part of the problem is that the brand of cricket on display at Edgbaston these days is not attractive. The make-up of the team - defiant, stubborn but limited - is one reason, but the funereal pitches is another. It would take world-class bowlers to conjure results at Edgbaston at present and there are not many of those in division two of the county championship.
Criticism of the ground staff should be tempered, however. At the start of the summer, Ashley Giles was keen that the batsmen were able to regain their confidence on easy-paced surfaces after their horrors in 2007.
Steve Rouse and his team are, largely, doing exactly what has been asked of them. The relentlessly damp summer has hardly helped, either.
Darren Maddy (222 balls, 16 fours) took full advantage of the pitch and the match situation to record his second century of the season and the 26th of his career. A fine effort it was, too, though Maddy would be the first to admit that the atmosphere was hardly intense. After one excellent spell of new ball bowling from the admirable Charl Langeveldt, Derbyshire were happy to play out time with the likes of Graham Wagg, Rikki Clarke and Dan Redfern displaying their rarely-seen spin bowling.
Langeveldt did account for Ian Westwood, however. The left-hander lost his middle-stump after playing on as he attempted to lift his bat out of the way of the ball and, had he not made 176 against Glamorgan, would now be averaging just 20 this season.
Tony Frost supported Maddy in a stand of 176 for the second wicket. Frost (127 balls, four fours) passed 50 for the fourth time this season, again displaying a water-tight technique and, though he was badly dropped at mid-wicket off Clarke when he had 41, justified his selection ahead of Navdeep Poonia as a specialist batsman. He only fell, caught at slip off Wagg’s left-arm spin, when the game was safe. Jim Troughton later fell, leaving a straight one.
Meanwhile, the chances of Rikki Clarke joining Warwickshire appear to be growing by the day. His move to Derby has not worked out and it appears player and county could well agree to cancel the remainder of his contract at the end of the season. While a few counties might be interested, it would surely be many fewer than this time last year.
Giles, however, admits he has held casual talks with Derbyshire’s director of cricket, John Morris, about the player and further developments are expected over the coming weeks.
Don’t rule out the possibility of Michael Vaughan coming to Edgbaston, either.
Though Giles joked about the scenario on Saturday, the pair are close friends and there is a sense that Vaughan requires a fresh start.
Warwickshire require an experienced batsman - and arguably a captain - and the recruitment of Vaughan would appear ideal.
Clarke is a more likley, and more complicated, situation. He was not impressive in this game.
He didn’t score any runs (and has only made one championship half-century all season) and bowled seamers and spinners equally poorly. He remains an enormous talent, however, and with careful management, could surely be an asset. Though there is much cynicism about Clarke among spectators, Giles remains a fan.
“I’ve played [for England] with Rikki and I know he’s a bloody good player,” he said. “Maybe he has a bit of that ‘Surrey strut’ but I know he’s got a good heart and the right work ethic. He’s a very talented cricketer, but he is unfulfilled.
“He does have the right character and trying to get the best out of him would be an exciting project for me. You wouldn’t want anyone in the dressing room who you didn’t think would buy into the team ethic, but I know Rikki is a good guy. But he is a Derbyshire player and he is under contract with them.”
Giles is not having much luck attracting players to Edgbaston at present, however. Though he has not given up hope, he is already looking towards going into the 2009 season with largely the same squad. “I would be confident if we were promoted [with this squad],” he said. “We are improving. But we will look to strengthen and I’m always on the lookout for quality players.
“I strongly believe that guys made big mistakes by not coming here this year. I’d like to think that people will start to look at what we’re doing here and want to come without me getting my notebook out.”
Giles was also full of praise for Jonathan Trott. The 27-year-old recorded his 1,000 championship run of the season when he got off the mark on Saturday, underlining the impression that he has developed into a consistent, high-class batsman. He is also an absolutely vital part of the Warwickshire team.
Since Nick Knight retired, no other Warwickshire player has made 1,000 championship runs in a season. Nobody managed it last year and Trott alone did so in 2006.
“Of course he’s mentioned [in England selection meetings],” said Giles. “You don’t get that weight of runs and not get mentioned. He’s been spot on for us this season.”
Warwickshire are likely to field a similar side at New Road on Tuesday. Ant Botha’s hip remains a cause of concern, but he is included in the squad, while Neil Carter will also be considered for the final XI could replace either Botha, Rankin or Chris Martin.
Warwickshire’s bowlers were not at their best in this game. Martin and Rankin delivered far too many poor balls and, by conceding nearly four an over, Warwickshire made life far too easy for the visitors. Indeed, Chris Rogers carried his bat and finished with the third highest score by a Derbyshire batsman in the history of first-class cricket.
“The seam bowlers didn’t bowl well in partnerships and they didn’t bowl to our plans, so that was a bit disappointing,” Giles said. “But Boyd gives us something different and, on a wicket with some pace or bounce, I wouldn’t like to face him. Remember he’s only two games into his season, too. He’s learning all the time.”
Rankin did show a glimpse of his ability in helping finish off the Derbyshire innings on Saturday morning. He struck in successive deliveries to dismiss Wagg, squared up and edging to slip, and then had Langeveldt caught down the leg side. Salisbury polished things off, claiming his fourth five-wicket haul of an impressive summer when convincing Nayan Doshi to leave a googly which hit middle stump.