Warwickshire crumble against huge total
Warwickshire 186 for 9 v Durham 602 for 6 dec
Like the scene in Blackadder where Rowan Atkinson's character recalls the British army's massacre of the peace-loving pygmies of the Upper Volta (who were armed with only kiwi fruit and guava halves), this contest at Edgbaston has become horribly uneven. Durham have simply overwhelmed Warwickshire.
Much of the second day's play here was inexplicable. On a blameless pitch on which Durham had just amassed 602 for 6 - the fifth highest score in their 20 years as a first-class county - Warwickshire capitulated so badly that they are likely to concede a first innings lead in excess of 400. They resume on day three on 186 for 9; still 416 runs behind and requiring another 267 just to avoid the follow-on. Suffice it to say, Durham are on top.
Perhaps scoreboard pressure is the best explanation. Warwickshire, dispirited by the best part of five sessions in the field, were simply blown away by a spirited Durham attack who have hit the deck harder and bowled a fuller length than the hosts managed. The visiting batsmen have also applied themselves more diligently.
The pitch has not deteriorated. Durham, and the impressive Ben Stokes in particular, have managed to coax some reverse swing from the ball, but most of the Warwickshire wickets owed more than a little to batsman error. With rain forecast and the pitch likely to remain docile, Durham should still be made to work hard to complete victory. It's hard to believe Warwickshire will bat so poorly for a second time.
Only Tim Ambrose can consider himself unfortunate. There looked to be a considerable amount of inside edge on the delivery that was adjudged to trap him lbw. Of the others, William Porterfield held his bat out at one angled across him, Ian Westwood was beaten for a lack of pace and prodded to short-leg, Mohammad Yousuf clipped a half-volley to miwicket and Jim Troughton attempted an unlikely single only to be run out by Borthwick's direct hit. Later, Rikki Clarke attempted to pull a delivery far too full for the shot, before Naqaash Tahir edged his lavish drive to slip. It was reckless batting.
Varun Chopra and Darren Maddy were the only men in the top seven to make it into double figures. With Chopra driving beautifully and Maddy's fondness for the short ball fed by a poor spell from Ruel Braithwaite (six overs for 48 runs), the pair added 86 for the fifth wicket in just 12 overs. All their good work was undone, however, when both men fell to loose drives.
Durham's bowlers deserved their fortune, however. Steve Harmison, generating decent pace and bounce off a short run, was rewarded for his probing line and length, Callum Thorp drew batsmen into the drive while Stokes, demonstrating good pace and control, is clearly a young man with a golden future.
"That wasn't a great day at the office," Warwickshire captain Troughton admitted afterwards. "We didn't bowl well enough and scoreboard pressure had played its part. Their bowlers have got the ball reversing and, by bowling a fuller length, have brought the slips into the game. We bowled too short and couldn't get the ball to reverse."
Earlier Durham had made batting look easy. After Dale Benkenstein completed his third century of the campaign, Phil Mustard and Ian Blackwell added 163 in just 27 overs for the sixth-wicket to take the total over 600 runs.
Perhaps, in Blackwell's case, they should be called 'bustles' rather than 'runs.' It appears the burly allrounder has surrendered in his fight against a burgeoning waistline and running is no longer a major part of his game. Instead he bustles up and down the pitch like an overweight business man hurrying to catch his train.
He's still a fine player, however. And a selfless one. Despite being within reach of a fourth first-class century of the season - and a third in five Championship innings - he continued to speed his side towards a declaration. He finally fell, pulling to the square-leg boundary, a single short of the 27th century of his first-class career.
He gave three tough chances - on 10, 55 and 83 - but still deserved his century. Despite the slow pitch and the defensive fields, he scored at better than a run a ball, thumping four sixes and five fours in his 94-ball innings.
It's also worth noting the oddity that will occur on the third day. With Boyd Rankin (unbeaten on 2 at stumps) departing on international duty for Ireland, his innings will be resumed by his nominated substitute, Andy Miller. Keith Barker will replace Porterfield. Even if the replacements were Sobers and Sachin, however, Warwickshire would still require something of a miracle to save this game.