Warwickshire’s championship match with Lancashire appears doomed to a draw by poor weather but two Bears took advantage to make important personal statements of intent as the rain briefly relented yesterday.
After the Bears chose to bat following a first-day washout, Ian Bell seized the moment to remind England selectors that he is ready for an Ashes call-up.
His 106, his 25th first-class century, was assured and impressive, especially against the moving ball early on, and increases the pressure on Ravi Bopara in the second innings of the Lord’s Test.
On a parochial level, meanwhile, Ian Westwood’s need of runs was great. Six successive single-figure scores, and especially two untidy dismissals edging into the slips against Sussex last week, evoked memories of Michael Powell’s struggles with the bat as a young captain. But Westwood gritted through an uneasy opening to reach 60, his second half-century of the season and show welcome flashes of fluency.
Jonathan Trott also contributed solidly to reach 69 and keep Warwickshire advancing towards maximum batting points before bad light lopped off the last 22 overs.
The loss of the first day and probably further time today and tomorrow to rain does not radically change Warwickshire’s approach from that they have carried into most championship matches this season: Pile up those batting points and insure against defeat.
Their bonus point tally before this game (27 batting, comfortably the most in Division One; 10 bowling, the least by a mile) explains that mindset but it’s unlikely the Bears can draw their way to First Division survival. They need to win a game or two somewhere.
That might be easier with seven of the last nine games away from Edgbaston’s good batting wickets. Those matches, starting against Hampshire at The Rose Bowl next week, will reveal whether Warwickshire are likely to accompany Worcestershire in a change of divisions for the third successive year.
Yesterday, the Bears recovered strongly after an awkward start. Westwood was perilously close to falling lbw to the first ball of the match, from Sajid Mahmood, then Tony Frost, moving across rather than forward, did fall lbw to the eighth, from Kyle Hogg.
Westwood drew strength from Bell, who immediately looked composed and in control, and the pair added 130 in 38 overs. The captain visibly increased in confidence as his innings lengthened and he reached 60 (111 balls, six fours) before slicing Hogg to gully.
Bell required just one slice of fortune when, on 59, he edged Hogg at catchable height through vacant third slip. He lost fluency in the 70s but stayed patient, moved from 95 to 99 with a sublime cover-drive off Oliver Newby and reached his century from his 162nd ball faced. It was a surprise when he edged Newby behind, though just reward to the bowler for an away-cutter which merited a wicket.
Jim Troughton soon fell, bat-pad, off spinner Gary Keedy but Trott was determined to make up for the pair he recorded last time Lancashire visited Edgbaston in the championship. He passed 50, for the ninth time in all cricket this season, from 92 balls with five fours while Tim Ambrose settled diligently in the fashion of a man who, like his captain, could do with a few runs.
n Durham secured a first-innings lead of 204 after totalling 303 in their first innings of the Second XI Championship match at The Riverside.
Jimmy Anyon’s haul of four for 50 was the biggest obstacle to the home side while Andy Miller advanced his rehabilitation after a side-muscle injury with two wickets.
When rain brought an early close, the Bears were 41 for two in their second innings with Navdeep Poonia out for ten and Stef Piolet for a duck.