Edgbaston (final day of four): Warwickshire 154 (Danish Kaneria 6-48) & 68-2 dec v Essex 216 (G R Napier 76, W B Rankin 4-80)
Warwickshire (7pts) drew with Essex (8pts)
Though this Championship game ended in the inevitable draw, the result maintains a worrying run of form for Warwickshire.
The game earned just seven points for Warwickshire and means they have scored only 25 from their last three games. It’s not promotion form, but they remain in second position, ten points below Worcestershire and, more importantly, 13 points clear of Northants.
“The game against Worcestershire will be really big for us,” Giles said, “but I do think we have a good run-in.
“We do seem to have slackened a bit. We’ve been a bit slack in our batting and we do have to up the ante again. This time last year things started to go badly, but now I want us to push on. We had a bad day with the bat, but I suppose we’re allowed one of those, but we have to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
It was an interesting final day. In bowling Essex out in just 48.3 overs, Warwickshire claimed full bowling bonus points for the first time in three games.
Chris Woakes’ bowling was immaculate. Maintaining a marvellous off-stump line, he swung the ball away from the bat consistently and, at one stage, had figures of eight overs, three maidens, two for 12 from his opening spell. For a 19-year-old, his maturity and reliability are staggering. He is, on present form, easily the best bowler at the club.
Boyd Rankin produced a mixed performance but is surely worth perseverance. He is remarkably raw for a 24-year-old representing his third county, but this was just his fifth first-class games and he does offer Warwickshire an edge that they have lacked for years.
In between quite a lot of really quite filthy bowling - short, wide and of variable pace - he produced some horrible deliveries that struck the batsmen on the body or claimed wickets. Expensive he may be, but if he continues to take a wicket every three overs, it hardly matters.
Jimmy Anyon was simply disappointing. He is seen by the coaching staff as a strike bowler, but lacked pace or consistency.
He did produce a beauty, bouncing and nipping away, to dismiss Ryan ten Doeschate, but Giles admitted “frustration” with the performance, while warning that “there’s a lot of competition for places.”
Anyon will surely make way for Chris Martin for the game against Derbyshire.
Rankin struck first as James Middlebrook fenced at a good on that bounced more than expected, James Foster edged another perfect outswinger on off-stump and Grant Flower was caught and bowled off a leading edge as he tried to turn an outswinger through mid-wicket.
Had Tony Frost, diving to his right, been able to hold on to a tough chance offered by Graham Napier off Woakes when the batsman had just one, Essex would surely have failed to gain a batting point.
As it was Napier (62 balls, ten fours and four sixes) delivered some stunning blows, leaning back and driving Rankin for six over extra-cover - a fantastic shot - while punishing Ian Salisbury for some uncharacteristically loose bowling. Mark Pettini was obliged to bat down the order after seeking medical advice over blurred vision.
Warwickshire were never likely to bat so badly again and, with Jonathan Trott and Darren Maddy to the fore, saw out their time comfortably.
Navdeep Poonia failed again, however. A propensity to fiddle outside off stump is a fatal flaw for an opening batsman and his dismissal here, steering a ball he could have left into the slip cordon, raised further questions about his ability to prosper at this level.
He does have ability, but he appears to have lost the big shots that made him promising without developing the defence to make him sound. Ian Westwood fell in similar fashion, though he looked in fine touch in the first innings.
Warwickshire’s top-order batting is a concern, however. With wicketkeeper Tim Ambrose back for the rest of the season, it is quite possible that Tony Frost will retain his place as a specialist batsman with Poonia making way.
There was more bad news for Giles over possible reinforcements, however. He now expects neither Ed Joyce or Dawid Malan to leave Middlesex.
“Rankin’s performance was a massive positive,” Giles said. “It’s his first game in months, so he won’t normally go for so many runs, but he does bowl wicket-taking deliveries.
“But Woakes was our stand-out bowler. He’s so impressive and he is improving game on game.”
Meanwhile, staff in the Edgbaston ticket office have been ringing every member that missed out on their choice of Ashes tickets to see what can be done to accommodate their requirements.
There is much cynicism from some members about all aspects of the club at present, but staff are working hard to meet demand despite overwhelming requests for tickets.
* David Smith reacted with some surprise to the figures quoted over Leicestershire’s membership by Colin Povey in the Post. Refuting Povey’s suggestion that membership of LCCC had fallen by around 40% over the last five years, Smith, the Leicestershire chief executive, put the figure at “slightly less than 10%.”