Rejuvenated Carter inspires Warwickshire
Warwickshire 30 for 1 v Lancashire 189
Maybe it is Warwickshire, not Lancashire, who are the team most likely to foil Durham's bid to reclaim the County Championship title. An argument along those lines could probably be built purely on the basis of three straight wins coming into this match but there are other factors to provide encouragement.
Shivnarine Chanderpaul, who flew into Birmingham on Sunday, will give some substance to their batting on the run-in and Neil Carter, who took 51 Championship wickets last season, is at last back in the four-day side and, on this evidence, in fine fettle.
Carter, who missed the early part of the season because of a pelvic injury, returned to play Twenty20 matches at the beginning of June and has four 40-over matches under his belt but this was his first taste of first-class cricket in 11 months. As Lancashire were bowled out for 189, it could hardly have gone better for the 36-year-old from Cape Town.
Exploiting humid, overcast conditions that encouraged the ball to swing, Carter began with a slightly fortunate wicket with a delivery that was no better than a loosener but ended with a career-best 6 for 30 from 8.5 overs.
"It has been frustrating to be out for a long period at this stage of my career and while I had no problems bowling four overs in T20 matches I did not know until I had a second eleven game how I would be bowling longer spells," he said. "But I pulled up pretty well after that and it is great to be back in the side now.
"I wasn't really in rhythm today. It was a difficult wicket to bowl on because the ground was a bit soft and it was hard to get purchase when you land your front foot. But the ball swung and if that's what happens on a non-rhythm day I can't wait for when I am in rhythm."
The 'lucky' wicket was Stephen Moore, who had for the most part batted impressively to reach 76 in what had been a struggle for the home side against a moving ball.
He had been dropped on 43, Rikki Clarke shelling what should have been a routine take at second slip off Keith Barker, but was making sure-footed progress until he was dismissed, hitting the unfortunate Barker for three fours off the reel to raise his boundary count to 14 after completing his 50 from 66 balls.
But as Carter's first delivery began to drift harmlessly away to leg, Moore was tempted into an attempted glance and paid the price, wicketkeeper Tim Ambrose diving to his left to take the catch.
The wicket sparked a Lancashire collapse, all of it brought about by Carter, as they collapsed from 131 for 4. The Moore wicket put Carter on what would have been among the more unusual hat-tricks -- it had been his dismissal of Matt Coles that had completed a win over Kent in his last game of 2010.
He did not pull it off, but in the same over swooped in his follow-through to take a return catch as Gareth Cross fell without scoring, giving Carter two wickets from his first four balls. Then Will Porterfield held a catch at gully when Glen Chapple drove at an away swinger and Carter was on a hat-trick again after bringing one back to have Saj Mahmood leg before, offering no stroke.
Smith survived this hat-trick ball, at the start of his next over, but it was not long before Kyle Hogg nicked another ball slanted across him and Porterfield reacted superbly to take his second catch, at third slip. Smith became victim number six when he skied one to mid-off.
Earlier, as Boyd Rankin struggled to get his lines right, conceding 20 runs off the bat in his first two overs, as well as four byes, Lancashire had made a brisk start. But ultimately they came up short against the swinging ball, Paul Horton and Karl Brown both edging Chris Woakes to second slip, Mark Chilton falling to an ankle-height catch at first slip off the same bowler, before Barker had Steven Croft leg before.
There was some consolation for Lancashire when Chapple had Varun Chopra, driving, caught at third slip before rain brought an early end to a day, already interrupted by stoppages, that was limited to 58 overs.