Edgbaston (third day): Middlesex 297 & 124-1 v Warwickshire 438.
Perhaps it is fitting that Warwickshire are sponsored by Sunrise Senior Living; a provider of care for old people.
They limp into the final day of their championship match against Middlesex with just three front-line bowlers and a squad carrying so many aches and strains that it would not be at all surprising to see them take the field with the aid of Zimmer frames, ear trumpets and .
Ian Salisbury and Michael Powell are the most recent casualties. Salisbury injured his calf in the warm-up before play while Powell was struck on the fingers and ended the day with his hand in a bucket of ice.
So grim was the situation that Warwickshire were obliged to utilise the services of a 15-year-old who was only at the ground on work experience. Tom Milnes, who plays for Berkswell and represented the county under-14 side last summer, was recommended by Dougie Brown as a substitute fielder and acquitted himself very well. John Webb, a 16-year-old from Bromsgrove School, Calum MacLeod and Richard Johnson were also pressed into service.
Indeed, there was a certain black humour to events at Edgbaston yesterday. When Monde Zondeki and his runner (Ant Botha) came to the crease, they joined Salisbury and his runner (Jim Troughton) on the pitch. The ensuing four-man, 30-run stand was quite chaotic.
It was not a unique occurrence, however. In 1983 Dennis Amiss and Alvin Kallicharran both required runners and were joined by KD Smith and Andy Lloyd. Unsurprisingly the incident ended in a run out.
Bearing in mind the knocks, both literal and psychological, they've taken in recent times, Warwickshire have stuck to their task admirably in this game. The middle-order batted with fortitude and bravery in earning a first innings lead, while the bowlers later produced a disciplined and sustained performance.
A draw might be the likely result but the Middlesex dressing room is far from united under Ed Smith, and a couple of early wickets this morning could yet lead to an interesting ending.
It would be easy to ridicule Warwickshire's pre-season assessment this is the fittest squad the club has ever had. But most of these injuries are simply bad luck. Blows to the hand are part of the life of a batsman, while 38-year-old
Salisbury was always going to struggle with his fitness at times. Zondeki was not part of the pre-season training and in any case will be leaving the club today, having been called up for the South Africa tour party..
Besides, the injury hardly appeared to bother Salisbury. He carved his way to his second half-century of the season, ensuring Warwickshire picked up maximum batting bonus points with just four balls left.
His method is hardly sophisticated. If the ball is good he blocks it, but if it is short he throws the kitchen sink into his cut shot. He also possess a pleasing lofted drive and brought up the Warwickshire 400 with a towering six into the pavilion off the even older Shaun Udal.
That Warwickshire were able to earn the initiative, however, was largely due to the efforts of Tony Frost and Botha. The pair extended their overnight partnership to 152, with Botha (158 balls, six fours) registering his first half-century for the club and Frost (241 balls, 12 fours) succumbing in the 90s for the third time in his first-class career.
He richly deserved a century. Sound in de-fence, he still produced some typically elegant drives and glances and underlined the wisdom of re-signing him as a player this season.
Both men fell to 39-year-old Udal, however. Botha inside edged the off-spinner's first delivery of the day to silly point via his pad, while Frost simply played across a straight one and missed. Salisbury (116 balls, ten fours and two sixes) sustained the good work, however. He took every opportunity to cut Middlesex's wayward attack (the tally of 54 extras speaks volumes about them) and looked set for a century of his own before falling to a yorker as he attempted to give himself some room.
Still, a first innings lead of 141 gave Warwickshire every opportunity to apply some pressure. But well though their seamers bowled, they didn't seem able to find any of the life that was available to Middlesex's quicker but less accurate attack.
There were a couple of near misses. First Naqaash Tahir was unable to cling on to a sharp caught and bowled chance offered by Billy Godleman when he had just 13, before the same batsman, on 51, slashed between slip and gully. Moments later he was reprieved again when, in trying to avoid playing-on, he kicked the ball perilously close to his stumps.
Jonathan Trott was the pick of the attack, however. Maintaining a tight line and length, he found just enough swing to trouble the batsmen and fully deserved the wicket of Smith with his second delivery, an inswinger that beat a tentative forward prod. A surprise bouncer lodged inside Godleman's helmet, too, but it will take early wickets this morning to force a result in this game.