Westwood ton puts Warwickshire on top
Warwickshire 398 for 7 v Somerset 262
Elegant isn't normally a word you associate with Ian Westwood. He is a batsman with many qualities: determination, certainly; bravery, absolutely; grim determination, frequently. But elegant is not a description that springs to mind.
Here, however, on the second day of Warwickshire's Championship match against Somerset, Westwood produced an innings that could only be described as elegant. His confidence boosted by a couple of three-figure scores in second XI cricket, Westwood timed the ball unusually crisply and produced a series of resounding cuts and pulls that would have delighted any batsman.
It was an important innings, too. Westwood has already played a key role in earning Warwickshire a substantial first-innings lead in the match and given his side an excellent opportunity to revive a season that director of cricket, Ashley Giles, admitted was "at a crossroads".
In partnership with Varun Chopra, Westwood posted 202 for Warwickshire's first wicket. It represents the club's highest opening stand in first-class cricket and the first time Warwickshire have recorded a double-century first-wicket partnership since 2000. Warwickshire's lead is already worth 136 and they have established an excellent platform from which to push for victory over the final half of the game.
Westwood also needed this performance from a personal perspective. He had not scored a Championship century since September 2009 and, since relinquishing the captaincy at the end of last year, has struggled to justify his place in the side in any form of the game. This was his first score of more than 50 this season.
It cannot have been an easy time for him. At the end of last season, when he had dropped himself from the limited-overs team, Westwood was relegated to the role of spectator as Ian Bell captained Warwickshire to victory in the CB40 Trophy at Lord's.
Here, however, he was untroubled against the seamers and dealt with the left-arm spin of Murali Kartik with calm and composure. The only semblance of a chance he offered came when he was on 99 and Chopra sent him back as the pair considered a quick single. Had Lewis Gregory's throw from cover hit the stumps, Westwood would have been denied his ninth first-class century and his sixth in the championship.
He's probably never played better. Steve Kirby, as deserving a fast bowler as you could find in England, was reduced to howls of anguish as Westwood cut him to ribbons and pulled him to distraction. Only 17 of Westwood's 129 runs came in the V from mid-off to mid-on. Chopra, meanwhile, leant into a series of languid cover drives that bore the hallmark of real class.
Though Chopra finally fell, playing across a straight one, and a weary Westwood was stumped as he advanced down the pitch and missed, William Porterfield consolidated the host's position with his third Championship half-century of the season.
Perhaps Somerset squandered their slim chance to fight their way back into the game. Porterfield was missed three times before he had reached 30, with Kartik dropping a straightforward chance off Arul Suppian when the batsman had 23.
Craig Kieswetter also put down a tricky chance. Before Porterfield had scored, he edged one from Kartik which the recently recalled England keeper could not clasp. It wasn't the easiest chance, but it does resurrect the question of whether Kieswetter - for all his raw talent - is quite ready for international cricket.
Warwickshire lost Jim Troughton - enduring a bit of a grim run of form - while Somerset also claimed the wickets of Rikki Clarke, who missed a sweep, and Darren Maddy, who edged one that left him, right before the close. But, while such strikes will have lifted Somerset spirits, they will know that the damage was long since inflicted. They face an uphill fight to clamber their way back into this game.
Somerset's seamers stuck to their task pretty well. Kirby was, as ever, whole-hearted, while Charl Willoughby claimed the 800th first-class wicket of his career when Tim Ambrose edged a loose drive.
Maybe Kartik was not quite at his best. He found some turn, but his line wasn't as tight as we have come to expect and it took him some time to find his rhythm. Perhaps that is not surprising: he hasn't played a first-class game since mid-January.
Meanwhile it was announced that Kieswetter and Warwickshire's Chris Woakes will be pulled out of this game after the third day to report for England duty.