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George Dobell at Edgbaston
June 20, 2011
Warwickshire 86 for 0 v Somerset 262
The figures might be unremarkable, but Boyd Rankin produced an unusually fine spell of fast bowling on the first day of Warwickshire Championship match with Somerset.
On a slow, flat pitch and against a batting line-up boasting several players with realistic international ambitions, Rankin provided a hostile, menacing performance that included three wickets for four runs in 22 balls at one stage. And two of those runs were no-balls. By the time Somerset were dismissed for a distinctly unimpressive 262, Rankin had taken 4 for 41.
The ease with which Ian Westwood and Varun Chopra began Warwickshire's reply - the pair posted 86 for Warwickshire's first wicket before bad light brought an early close - added to the impression that Somerset had failed to take advantage of a golden opportunity after winning the toss and making first use of the pitch.
Until Rankin's intervention, a Marcus Trescothick century had appeared inevitable. Somerset's captain had just become the first man to 1,000 first-class runs in the season - a landmark he would surely have reached before the end of May had Somerset not missed a round of games - and had already plundered Andy Miller for three sumptuous boundaries in four balls.
But Rankin more than discomforted Trescothick. Twice the batsman was hit - once on the head and once on the body - by balls pitched just back of a length that reared horribly. And, though Trescothick's dismissal, glancing a catch down the leg side, was a little fortunate, it was no more than Rankin deserved.
Let's be clear: this is a slow pitch. Painfully slow. And Trescothick is a fine batsman, in good form and he was well set. It takes a fine performance to unsettle him in such fashion.
Rankin was equally good against James Hildreth and Craig Kieswetter. Hildreth was unsettled by the bounce Rankin generates and was drawn into pushing at one on off stump, while Kieswetter played on off the inside edge as he prodded tentatively at a fine delivery that confused the batsman as to whether to play or leave. Later Steve Kirby, launching into a furious drive that would have been considered ambitious by Viv Richards, became Rankin's final victim when he edged to the keeper. It was one of Tim Ambrose's five catches.
It is Rankin's poor fortune to be playing in a golden age of English fast bowling. He is behind the likes of Chris Tremlett, Stuart Broad and Steve Finn in the pecking order of tall, hit-the-deck fast bowlers but, in this mood, he loses very little in comparison to any of them.
It was a good day for Rikki Clarke, too. He's out of contract at the end of the season and, so far, yet to categorically persuade Warwickshire that's he's worthy of another deal. After all, he's made just one 50 and averages only 20 in this Championship campaign.
He adds so much in the field, however. His anticipation in catching Nick Compton was quite outstanding - seeing the batsman shape to sweep, Clarke ran from slip to leg slip to take the catch - while he also ended Somerset's stubborn sixth-wicket stand with two wickets in two balls. First Lewis Gregory was yorked before Murali Kartik edged a loose drive.
There was no sign of the trouble to come when Trescothick and Arul Suppiah posed an untroubled 64 runs for Somerset's first wicket. But then Suppiah lost his off stump, attempting to turn a straight one into the leg side, before Rankin went to work on the middle-order. Somerset's tail - dangerously long and weak - was also exposed once again as they lot their final five wickets for just 32 runs.
Only when Gregory and Peter Trego were adding 75 for the sixth-wicket did Somerset show much resistance. Gregory played and missed frequently early on but, as he settled in, demonstrated some pleasing strokes, while Trego was typically pugnacious and only fell when he was left with the hapless Charl Willoughby.
Meanwhile Warwickshire have abandoned plans to persuade Mohammad Yousuf to re-join them and have instead turned their attention to brining Shivnarine Chanderpaul to Edgbaston instead. They hope to have secured him from July onwards.
Warwickshire did consider picking Jeetan Patel for this game. The New Zealand offspinner, who is with the club as an overseas player for the FLt20, may yet play in next week's game against Sussex at Arundel if the pitch looks likely to assist spin bowlers but, in the meantime, Warwickshire were keen to provide more opportunity to their 20-year-old left-arm spinner, Chris Metters. Metters responded with a wicket with his first delivery.
There were a couple of other interesting omissions in the Warwickshire side, too. Neil Carter, last season's Most Valuable Player, was left out after a torrid return to injury in the FLt20, while Keith Barker, who scored a century in Warwickshire's last Championship game (against Durham) was squeezed out by the return of Chris Woakes.
Warwickshire are also hoping to sign James Taylor. The 21-year-old, quite possibly the brightest young batting talent in the county game, is contracted to Leicestershire until the end of the 2012 season. Warwickshire hope, however, that by offering compensation - including the possibility of one of their own players in return - that they can persuade officials at Grace Road to release the player.
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