Going into a game where one team boasts six international players and 1582 first class appearances and the other team’s corresponding figures are zero and 41 would, on paper, suggest a pretty unlevel playing field. Reading the scorecard (link here) at the end of the game wouldn’t.
The Yellows performed solidly throughout the first two days of their opening first class game of the 2016 before rain prevented any play on the 3rd day, scuppering any hopes of being set a challenging target by the Bears.
Having won the toss and inserting the home team on a good wicket at the famous Test venue, the Warwickshire opening pair of former captains Varun Chopra and Ian Westwood compiled an opening partnership of 152 before the Lancashire duo of Ash Gowers (on his first class debut) and Liam Watkinson combined for the first of three wickets between the two of them in the innings, Gowers whipping the bails off with Westwood out of his crease. Alex Lilley then claimed the prized scalp of Ian Bell by hitting his stumps and Archie Ogden, also a first class debutant, bagged the wickets of Jonathan Trott and Sam Hain.
With the exception of Hain, all the Warwickshire batsmen managed to get in without any of them completely dominating, which was all credit to the Yellows attack. They declared on 350 for 6 from 85 overs, Watkinson taking 3 for 123, Ogden 2 for 80 and Lilley 1 for 50 – Lilley and Moin Ashraf in particular bowling good lines to both have economy rates of well under 3 an over.
The Yellows had 11 overs to survive at the end of Day 1, Henry Thompson falling to a slip catch off the bowling of Chris Woakes. Steve Bullen saw it through to the close with the score 30 for 1.
Bullen started day two cautiously (!) by driving his first ball through the covers for four, before falling to Woakes for 18. Christian Davis and Root then both looked at home on this stage in compiling a stand of 62 from 18 overs before an ugly mix-up led to the skipper being run out for 36. Root went on to record a maiden first-class half century but became the 5th wicket to fall when bowled by Barker for 62.
Logan Weston and Liam Watkinson both got in, but when they fell for 22 and 16 respectively the students were 180 for 7 – still 20 short of avoiding the follow on. Ash Gowers then rubber-stamped an impressive debut by adding 55 for the 8th wicket with Lilley, scoring 38 (60 balls) and on his departure our other debutant, Archie Ogden, chipped in with 24 in a 9th wicket stand of 56 – a record for us in 3-day County games.
Lilley went of to record a well-deserved maiden first-class half century and was on 51 from 76 balls when Davis let him preserve his average by declaring on 291 for 9. Warwickshire had reached 45 for the loss of Hain (c&b Lilley) at the close – a lead a 104. However, overnight rain which continued through the morning put paid to any play on day 3 and hands were shaken on a draw at 11.45.
Despite the clear difference in experience between the two teams (as highlighted in the stats at the start of this article), the team once again showed that they are not phased by competing at this level. The boys now head down to Hove where they start a 3-day game against Sussex CCC on Tuesday 5th April.