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George Dobell at Edgbaston
August 23, 2011
Yorkshire 297 v Warwickshire
If Yorkshire go on to suffer relegation this year, they may well come to rue the opening day of this match.
This was a day of missed opportunities for the hosts. Despite winning first use of a blameless pitch and despite facing an attack decimated by injury and international calls, Yorkshire squandered their opportunity to set-up a match-defining position. It sums up their performance that they were dismissed just three runs short of gaining a third batting bonus point. Such profligacy may come back to haunt them.
The frustration, from a Yorkshire perspective, was that they did the hard work. Several of their batsmen made decent starts, but none of them could provide the imposing total their side required and nearly all of them played a role in their own dismissal. From a platform of 120 for1, it was a disappointing effort.
By contrast, Warwickshire could feel well satisfied with their day's work. The visitors were missing their three leading Championship wicket-takers - Chris Woakes and Boyd Rankin are absent on international duty and Rikki Clarke has a back injury - convincing them to take-on Essex's Chris Wright, who has signed until the end on season on loan, and utilise their director of cricket, Ashley Giles, as 12th man until reinforcements arrived from Birmingham.
Yet, somehow, the makeshift side combined the dismiss Yorkshire for a score that may well turn out to be at least 100 under par. Defying their lack of experience, they turned in a professional performance that did much to explain the differing positions of these two sides in the Championship table. In terms of talent, Yorkshire surely have the edge. In terms of application, they could learn much from Warwickshire.
As Giles put it: "We're four down from the side that played last week - six if you include Trott and Bell - but we found different guys to get the job done today. That's what good squads do."
While Andrew Miller was not selected as Warwickshire felt he'd had insufficient bowling after coming back from a recent knee injury, Giles' decision to select Wright surely bodes ill for Naqaash Tahir. Naqaash, a highly skilled swing bowler, is out of contract in a month and has already made his last appearance for Warwickshire. The 27-year-old played a valuable role in the 2004 Championship success and remains a dangerous bowler when the conditions - or perhaps more pertinently his mood - allow. But the suspicion remains that he has promised a little more than he has delivered and that he has not always embrace the training regime that Giles requires. He may yet forge a decent career elsewhere.
If Naqaash is Warwickshire's past, Keith Barker may well play a significant part in the future. It was 24-year-old Barker who produced the key performance of the day, claiming 4 for 73 from 23 impressive overs.
Barker is an interesting cricketer. Having pursued a career in football, he played almost no cricket between the age of 16 and 21. He is fast making up for lost time, however, and with an ability to swing the ball at pace and score Championship centuries, it is far from impossible that he'll be interesting the England selectors before too long.
Perhaps, had fate taken a slightly different course, he might have done so already. Barker, the God son of former West Indies captain Clive Lloyd, was a highly promising young cricketer who some at Lancashire wanted to sign at 14. Alas, officialdom intervened and a decision was made that the club shouldn't offer him a contract until he was 16. By the time they did make him a firm offer - two years later - it was too late. He had signed for Blackburn Rovers two days earlier.
He bowled very well here. Swinging the ball consistently, he also generated more pace than any of his colleagues from this gentle surface. More importantly, he claimed four good wickets. Jacques Rudolph was punished for playing across one which straightened, Joe Sayers was bowled off the inside edge as he pushed at one that left him, Gerard Brophy edged a quicker ball that surprised him for pace and Richard Pyrah was bowled by one that nipped back between bat and pad. On a surface offering little assistance, that represented high quality bowling.
Wright also impressed. Maintaining a tight line and length, he bowled at a decent pace and probed around on off-stump waiting for mistakes. There will be days when he has to wait far longer, but against a Yorkshire side who appear to have lost their traditional ability to graft for runs, he was soon rewarded when Joe Root, who clearly oozes ability, spoiled his pleasing innings by playing horribly across a straight one and Anthony McGrath felt for one outside off stump and edged to slip. It will have done Wright's claim for a longer-term contract no harm at all.
Chris Metters, the left-arm spinner who was playing for Devon this time last year, also claimed three wickets, though he would probably accept he was a little flattered by that haul. Adil Rashid cut a long-hop to point, Gary Ballance turned an innocuous delivery straight into the hands of short-leg before David Wainwright, out of contract in a few weeks and keen to secure more first team cricket, ended his impressive innings by missing a horrid swing to leg. All three batsmen had played very nicely up to that point, but all three would have been immensely disappointed at the soft nature of their dismissals.
And that was the story of the day. Yorkshire surrendered their opportunities a bit too easily and Warwickshire accepted them with delight. The hosts' batting - weakened as it is - suggests this game is far from over, but Yorkshire will have to toughen up substantially if they are to avoid relegation.
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