In this key Division One match, on a day interrupted by rain and, indeed, rumours of rain, Warwickshire bowled out Yorkshire for 213. They then lost two early wickets to leave the match evenly poised. Weather permitting, this looks like being an excellent contest between two well-matched teams.
Whilst Jonny Bairstow flourished with a superb hundred, all other batsmen on both sides floundered. He scored 108 whereas 14 others made 107 between them, plus nine extras. It was very much a bowlers’ day, with Chris Wright claiming 5-40 and Ryan Sidebottom getting two wickets in his first over.
After the match, both Wright and Bairstow confirmed that on a pitch with plenty of bounce, the ball had swung all day. It is, in fact, the same pitch that was used for the T20 game on Friday night. Whereas Wright understandably expressed the hope that the second day would produce the best batting conditions of the match, Jonny Bairstow was looking forward to more cloud cover and plenty of continuing swing for the Yorkshire pacemen.
The forecast for the opening day of sunshine and showers proved accurate, although two interruptions were caused more by the umpires anticipating rain than any actual downpour. It was presumably a coincidence that the first delay happened just after Dickie Bird visited the press box. In all seriousness, some spectators felt that umpires Cowley and Wharf did the game few favours by taking the players off when conditions overhead and under foot were perfectly playable. It was the kind of weather where you would happily take your dog out for a walk without putting your coat on.
The third interruption was more serious, with torrential rain plus thunder and lightning. For the Warwickshire supporters who were present on Friday night, it was almost as spectacular as Brendan McCullum at full blast. Modern drainage is such, however, that downpours are easily absorbed, so after a delay of 75 minutes, play resumed.
Having won the toss at the beginning of the day and deciding to bat, Yorkshire had early cause to regret the decision as they encountered excellent opening spells from Chris Wright and Oliver Hannon-Dalby. Wright worked up a good pace and got plenty of bounce while ex-Yorkshire player Hannon-Dalby consistently swung the ball into left-handers Alex Lees and Will Rhodes. He is unrecognisable (beanpole shape aside) from the harum-scarum bowler of two seasons ago.
Wright beat Rhodes for pace and bowled him and then had Leaning well-caught by Jeetan Patel at third slip. When Hannon-Dalby induced an edge from Yorkshire captain Andrew Gale, the visitors were in deep trouble at 29-3.
Alex Lees toiled manfully for 59 balls but then was beaten in the air and off the pitch by Jeetan Patel and neatly stumped by Pete McKay, a last-minute selection after Tim Ambrose fell ill with a stomach bug. Jonny Bairstow came into this match with a Championship average of 106 and it increasingly looked as though his was the crucial wicket. All the more unfortunate, therefore, for McKay when he dropped Bairstow just before lunch. To be fair, it was a full-length dive down the leg-side and the ball almost stuck in the gloves; Bairstow was on 37 at the time and Yorkshire were 74-4.
After lunch, Bairstow reached his fifty off 74 balls with seven fours. He and Aaron Finch put together a useful partnership of 74. The Australian, however, rarely looked comfortable so it was no surprise when he went half forward to a good length ball from Rikki Clarke and was lbw for 28. The persevering Clarke also got Tim Bresnan, McKay taking a good catch low down to his right.
Bairstow was increasingly taking on Warwickshire on his own, seemingly playing on a different planet from his teammates. James Middlebrook endured an uncomfortable stay before edging Hannon-Dalby to second slip where Rikki Clarke took a stinging catch.
Before and after the final rain interruption, Stephen Patterson held firm while Jonny Bairstow completed an outstanding hundred. Patterson fell to Chris Wright before Bairstow was at last out to the least elegant shot of his whole innings, trying to hit Chris Wright to somewhere in the region of the Birmingham Bullring. His 108 was made out of 187 while he was at the wicket. He faced only 139 balls and struck fifteen fours, mostly square of the wicket off the back foot.
Chris Wright had bowled with admirable pace and control all day and, when he comprehensively bowled Jack Brooks, he completed a well deserved five-wicket haul. It was also his 450th career wicket. He now looks to be back to the form he showed in 2012 before his back injury.
Warwickshire had five overs to survive but Varun Chopra didn’t get beyond his first ball from Ryan Sidebottom. Delivered over the wicket, it swung back into Chopra who played no shot and was comprehensively bowled. Nightwatchman Chris Wright fared little better, being trapped in front second ball. At 0-2, it made the Yorkshire total of 213 look positively gigantic. Ian Westwood and Jonathan Trott survived until stumps, but the first hour tomorrow could be crucial in deciding the destiny of this match.