WARWICKSHIRE’S championship opener with Somerset appears doomed to a draw after a day of joyless toil for the Bears’ depleted bowling attack.
After Warwickshire piled up 500 in their first innings on the first two days, on the third it was the home side’s turn to prosper.
Where Ian Bell had utterly mastered the Somerset bowling, yesterday James Hildreth established similar command over Warwickshire’s.
The classy 24-year-old stroked an unbeaten 191 to lift the home side to 454 for four and send the match into today’s final day consigned to almost certain stalemate.
The Bears’ bowlers found it a struggle, not helped by the early loss of Neil Carter to a calf strain. Already without Boyd Rankin, on international duty, and Jeetan Patel, awaiting a visa, and with Ant Botha hampered by a sore elbow, the last thing they needed was to lose another key man. But Carter limped off after bowling just three overs in the morning and spent the rest of the day under treatment.
That left stand-in captain Bell (Tim Ambrose was off all day with a stiff back) having to fiddle too many overs from back-up bowlers Jonathan Trott and Darren Maddy.
The bright spot came from Chris Woakes who continued his impressive match. Having struck a maiden championship half-century with the bat, yesterday he was the pick of the bowlers. His three victims included the big wickets of Marcus Trescothick and Justin Langer.
When Trescothick, on 52, was well caught by Maddy low in the gully, Somerset were 118 for two and the Bears sensed their chance. But Langer and Hildreth snuffed out all hope with a partnership of 225, Somerset’s record third-wicket stand against Warwickshire, displacing the 206 by Viv Richards and Brian Rose at Edgbaston in 1982.
Hildreth’s command was total. He only had one uneasy moment, on 85, when he skied Trott but was relieved to see the ball land just beyond twelfth man Andrew Miller at long leg.
Woakes returned to trap Langer with the second new ball and soon had Zander de Bruyn caught at second slip but Craig Kieswetter joined Hildreth to add an unbroken 100 before the close and, as the day turned gloomy and cold, the spectators huddled under their rugs and quietly watched the stalemate stiffen.