Warwickshire well on top against Northants

Warwickshire well on top against Northants

The 2020 county cricket season may resemble a shipwreck. But now that the Bob Willis Trophy is under way, supporters can at least sing remotely and loudly in the lifeboats as the ship goes down.

Northants 142 and 19-0; Warwickshire 369-8, innings closed

At Edgbaston, Warwickshire had to work hard for much of the day against persistent Northants bowling to build up a lead of 227 that may well prove decisive. 

They owed much to a century from their debutant Tim Bresnan who shared stands of 79 and 104 with Rob Yates and Alex Thomson. The difficult chance that Saif Zaib dropped off Bresnan when he was on five proved somewhat expensive.

At the end of the day, Northants had to survive seven overs and managed to do so without too much trouble. Even so, there is a long way to go just to avoid an innings defeat so it is difficult to see the visitors managing to take the match into a fourth day.

At the start of day two, overnight pair Yates and Michael Burgess brought up their 50 partnership. Then Ben Sanderson found a perfect line and length to hit Burgess’s off stump. Warwickshire were still one behind the Northants first innings score.  

Tim Bresnan did not have the best of starts to his Warwickshire batting career when Nathan Buck hit him amidships and temporarily felled him. His response was to strike the next ball back past the bowler for four.

Both Sanderson and Buck managed a lively pace and exploited the occasionally variable bounce in the pitch. Sanderson was the man who found the edge of Bresnan’s bat, only to see Saif Zaib miss the chance at second slip. The resulting boundary took Warwickshire beyond 150.  

Rob Yates managed only five runs in the first hour of play. Although beaten a few times, he showed a solid defence and an unflappable temperament that maybe he learnt from Dom Sibley. In his left-handed ability to accumulate runs whilst staying under the radar, he also is reminiscent of (Sir) Alastair Cook. Still only 20 years of age and a student at the University of Birmingham, he must surely have a great career ahead of him.

When Tim Bresnan made his debut for Yorkshire, Rob Yates was still in nappies. As they dug in together either side of lunch, the main danger came from the discrepancy between their running speeds. Yates a couple of times put Bresnan in the position of having to rely on a direct throw missing the stumps.

Bresnan reached a workmanlike fifty off 110 balls, with seven fours. Warwickshire supporters who doubted the wisdom of the Bears signing him are no doubt beginning to see how much he can offer with both bat and ball. Yorkshire fans will be keen to point out that, with Bresnan added to new Bears captain Will Rhodes and paceman Olly Hannon-Dalby, the Yorkies are gradually infiltrating the Bears squad.

The Northants bowlers stuck to their task with fortitude. Jack White sprayed it around occasionally but achieved some good late away swing.  Luke Procter swung it the other way. As for Rob Keogh, he found only slow turn with his off-spin but kept one end tight in a long spell of 18 overs for 39 runs from the Birmingham City end.

That is the end to which Covid has banished the Northants players, re-homed into the old changing rooms not used for a decade since the new pavilion was finished.

It was Jack White who broke what was becoming a stalemate when he induced an edged drive from Yates. The ball flew hard and fast to third slip where Emilio Gay took a fine, high catch. Yates’ 88 had taken him 262 balls. Half his runs came in boundaries, from which you can deduce that there was a plethora of dot balls. He and Bresnan had added 79 valuable runs. 

In the company of Alex Thomson, Bresnan saw off the new ball. Thomson had to work hard to establish his innings but did manage to pull a short ball from Nathan Buck to the short Hollies Stand boundary for six. As one man, the stand rose to him. Well, actually, it was only one man; and he was on the staff.

Warwickshire clearly had a third bonus point in their sights whilst Bresnan sought a century and Thomson a first fifty. Bresnan hit White back over his head for six and then hoisted him over mid-wicket to gain the extra point that may be crucial at the end of the group stage of the competition.  The two group winners with the highest points go through to the final.

Bresnan reached his century with a quick single off the toiling Keogh. He had struck 11 fours and two sixes in achieving the seventh first class century of his long career. The last debutant century maker for Warwickshire was Andy Umeed in 2016.

Thomson had by now surpassed his previous highest score but on 46 was bowled by Nathan Buck. Bresnan soon followed, bowled by Keogh who was thus rewarded for more than 30 overs of honest toil.

From that point on, the main purpose to the Warwickshire innings was to present the unusual sight of two Olivers (Stone and Hannon-Dalby) batting together. In fact, Olly Stone batted particularly well for his unbeaten 36 before the innings was compulsorily closed after the full quota of 120 overs at 369-8. The lead was a formidable 227.

Northants will at least be relieved that they survived to the close with all their wickets intact but, still 208 behind, tomorrow looks likely to be an uphill battle.


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