At the end of two days of sometimes attritional cricket, Glamorgan held the edge over Warwickshire with a lead of 35 and all their second innings wickets in hand. Warwickshire now face batting last on a pitch that has taken some spin from the start of the game.
Ian Bell scored his first Championship hundred since early in the 2016 season, and fought hard to atone for his culpability in the run out of Jonathan Trott, but the Glamorgan bowlers stuck to their task and steadily worked their way through the Warwickshire batting line up.
Although Timm van der Gugten came through with late wickets, it was Lukas Carey who most impressed with 3-56 off 23 overs.
The confident opening stand by Nick Selman and Jack Murphy in the evening sunshine more than cleared the first innings deficit, and shifted the balance in favour of the Welsh county.
There may well be more twists and turns over the next two days but, at the moment, Glamorgan look favourites to upset the Division Two leaders and possibly claim an unexpected win.
At the start of the day, Glamorgan were unable to begin where they left off the night before. Timm van der Gugten, in particular, struggled with his line and length.
Jonathan Trott found his favourite leg-side boundary several times, including a short-arm jab that just cleared mid-wicket. He reached his 50 off 81 balls. It was his 88thfirst-class half century, to go with his 44 hundreds.
Trott’s final season has all the feel of a star’s farewell tour – like Frank Sinatra without the hairpiece.
All seemed set for a long, nostalgic day watching those two old masters, Trott and Bell, bat Warwickshire to another big total. But Bell played Andrew Salter towards square leg, started for a run, hesitated, then ran to leave his partner stranded and out for 57.
It was like seeing an old married couple have an unexpected tiff. To say that Trott looked disappointed would be something of an understatement.
Sam Hain came in, needing some first-class runs to match his one-day performances. He played a couple of exquisite drives for four but then totally mis-timed a straight drive, and Salter dived to his left to take the return catch.
At lunch, taken when the Bears were 131-4, the match was evenly poised.
Bell soon added the one run he needed for his 53rdfirst-class half century. He late-cut van der Gugten and pulled him for two boundaries, as the Australian born Dutchman continued to stray in line and length. Tim Ambrose looked as though he might keep Bell company through the afternoon but, at the start of an excellent spell of probing fast-medium bowling, Lukas Carey induced an edge and Nick Selman pulled off a spectacular one-handed catch at second slip.
At 164-6, Warwickshire were wobbling. For several seasons, they have been like a Manx cat or a gorilla – without a tail. This match looked as if it might the exception, with everyone from number seven onwards seeming at least one position too high.
Keith Barker did his best to prove the point, by losing his off stump to a good length ball from Carey, and then Jeetan Patel popped a return catch to the persevering Salter to leave the Bears precariously poised at 173-7.
Chris Wright, however, restored the natural order by settling in either side of tea with Bell. At the interval, the Bears were 209-7 with Bell on 85. 78 runs had been added in 34 overs, 36 of them to Bell.
Glamorgan took the new ball straight after tea but within four overs the 50 stand was up, Warwickshire were in the lead and Salter was back on with his off-spin.
There can have been few harder earned hundreds than Bell’s effort. Having batted since the second ball of the innings, he reached three figures just in time because van der Gugten, bowling a much better spell, removed Henry Brookes and Josh Poysden with successive balls to end the innings on 250.
Bell faced 248 balls for his 106 and hit 12 fours. It was his 53rdfirst class hundred.
van der Gugten finished with 4-65 and will be on a hat trick when he starts to bowl in the second innings – as was the case with Poysden himself late this evening. Carey deserved his 3-56 and Salter provided steady support with 2-65 off 30 overs. He has apparently been coach-mentored by Patel in New Zealand during the winter and it shows.
With the weather set fair, there should be plenty more hard-fought cricket to enjoy over the next two days.