Edgbaston (day 2 of 4): Northamptonshire 407-8 dec (L Klusener 83, R A White 73, M H Wessels 61, S D Peters 50, I D K Salisbury 5-110) v Warwickshire 120-3
Any parent will be familiar with the “are we nearly there yet?” question. It punctuates long journeys from the early stages and inevitably makes them appear even more arduous.
So it is with Warwickshire. Ashley Giles assumed control at Edgbaston less than a year ago with a burst of hope and goodwill and with every expectation that he would lead the club back to success.
So, are Warwickshire ‘nearly there?’ On the evidence of the last couple of weeks, the answer is a resounding ‘no.’
Warwickshire have certainly made quiet progress this season, but they have a mighty long journey ahead of them before they can be considered as consistent challengers for trophies.
Impatience with Giles and Allan Donald should surely be tempered, however.
Fate did not deal them a hand of aces and it is naïve to expect swift solutions. They inherited a club that was, arguably, at the lowest point in its history and it will surely take seasons, not months, to put things right.
Years of poor scouting, coaching and management have left the playing resources of this club perilously thin and the current regime have barely left Base Camp on their journey up the mountain.
Besides, there are some encouraging signs. The form of Jonathan Trott, in all forms of cricket, is excellent, while Jim Troughton also appears to have rounded his game, though he does not, as yet, have the big scores to show for it.
Chris Woakes’ emergence has been a delight, while the recruitment of Ian Salisbury and Tony Frost have been fully vindicated. The side’s limited-overs cricket has also improved markedly.
Questions remain about the raw quality of some members of this squad, however. While Giles and Donald may well help players fulfil their potential, they are not alchemists. They require better raw materials.
In the long term, success will surely require a more productive youth system. It is a situation of which the club are painfully aware and working to resolve, though it remains to be seen whether they are prepared to take the tough decisions necessary. Either way, it is a long-term solution and will not bring success in the foreseeable future.
There are not many future superstars in the Warwickshire second XI.
Recruitment is also necessary. Giles believes this squad requires a couple of experienced players to prosper in the top division, though the true number is surely closer to four or five. It has so far not proved easy to attract players to Edgbaston but, as word of the improved spirit spreads, it will surely become easier.
Warwickshire’s performance on the second day of their county championship match against Northamptonshire was not impressive.
Having failed to achieve full bowling bonus points for the first time this season in the previous game at Grace Road, they were denied again here by Northants’ declaration and face another fight to avoid the follow-on target of 258 today.
Most disappointingly, Warwickshire remained far too loose with the ball. After stating that they would reduce the number of ‘four balls’ after day one, they began day two by conceding six boundaries in the first six overs.
The introduction of the new ball saw 59 runs plundered in ten overs as Chris Martin, in particular, struggled with his line and length, and was punished for over-pitching repeatedly.
Certainly Warwickshire missed Neil Carter, who was absent with an upset stomach, but the inability to deliver a basic line or length was disappointing and allowed Lance Klusener, in particular, to flourish.
Indeed, it was some surprise when Warwickshire did take a wicket. Nicky Boje fell, mis-timing a leg-side delivery and poking a return catch to Martin, while Klusener (122 balls, 12 balls), with a century his for the taking, drove loosely at a wide one and sliced to point.
At least Salisbury completed his third five-wicket haul of the championship campaign. He was not at his best yesterday, delivering a few long-hops and full tosses, but his cricket this season, full of skill, variation and enthusiasm, has been a delight. Without him, this attack would seem very thin.
While he delivered 33 overs, his spin partner, Ant Botha, was trusted with just five; an odd distribution of labour or an insight into the captain’s confidence in his bowlers.
Warwickshire’s batting was also disappointing. Darren Maddy was simply unfortunate. His sweep was so well timed that it cannoned off the short-leg fielder and ballooned to first slip, ending an innings that has included some pleasing drives and promised much.
But the dismissal of Navdeep Poonia, turning away from a good short ball and gloving a simple catch, was not the shot of an opening batsman, while Ian Westwood’s characteristically determined innings was ended when he missed a full toss.
Troughton and Trott saw Warwickshire through to the early close and may gain more help from the weather today. But with the pitch now turning sharply, Warwickshire may have to battle hard to retain their unbeaten status.