Chanderpaul ton gives Warwickshire lead
Warwickshire 340 for 6 v Yorkshire 297
There was some consternation at Edgbaston when Warwickshire signed Shivnarine Chanderpaul. What sort of message, some supporters asked, did bringing in a short-term overseas signing send out to the club's own young players? Those grumbles only increased after Chanderpaul's lacklustre debut against Hampshire last week.
Here, however, the West Indian justified Warwickshire's investment with a masterful century. With the match and the Championship title in the balance, Chanderpaul contributed a chanceless - and so far unbeaten - innings of 167 which may well prove to have lasting consequences for both sides.
While Warwickshire's hopes of winning the title remain alive, Yorkshire's chances of avoiding relegation receded yet further. The scores drifting in from The Rose Bowl will have done nothing to lighten the mood.
This game hasn't gone yet, however. Warwickshire's lead is only 43 and, if Yorkshire can strike early on the third day and then bat far better in their second innings, they could yet turn this match.
As it is, however, Warwickshire have an opportunity to bat the hosts out of the game. The pitch is beginning to shows signs of variable bounce and is offering sharp turn out of the foot-holes. As Chanderpaul put it: "the bounce is a bit up and down and it's only the end of day two; it's not going to get any better."
Not that you'd notice from watching Chanderpaul. Coming to the crease with Warwickshire on 5 for 2, he barely played and missed in almost six hours at the crease and at times made Yorkshire's attack look very ordinary indeed. He made it look easy," Yorkshire captain Jacques Rudolph admitted afterwards. "He showed his class and his experience and he was very difficult to control."
This was a disappointing performance from the hosts, however. While Ryan Sidebottom and, to a lesser extent, Steve Patterson, at least gave their captain a measure of control, Chanderpaul was able to milk the others as if they were Friesians. Richard Pyrah, dropping short with mystifying regularity, was pulled repeatedly, while Adil Rashid, bereft of confidence, looks a shadow of the bowler that once promised so much. David Wainwright bowled some decent spells but simply found himself engaged in a battle with a superior opponent and conceded four an over at a time his captain desperately required someone to apply control.
Chanderpaul wasn't the only batsman to impress. Tim Ambrose again looked in fine touch in recording his sixth Championship half-century of the season. It says much for the bowling, however, that Ambrose, at one stage, hit boundaries from six consecutive deliveries: four off Pyrah - three drives and a pull - and two pulls off horrid Rashid long-hops.
With Chanderpaul, Ambrose added 111 for Warwickshire's fifth wicket and, while he may regret again failing to convert his fine form into a century - he hasn't scored one since 2009 - he might also consider himself unfortunate to be adjudged caught at slip off a ball that seemed to have turned from a foot hole and missed the bat altogether.
Laurie Evans also prospered for a while. Demonstrating excellent balance and timing the ball beautifully, he undid much of his good work, however, by perishing to Wainwright's fourth delivery, attempting a cut to a ball too full for the shot.
Keith Barker, so good with the ball on the first day, also looked good with the bat. While there's little pretty about Barker's batting - it's effective rather than pleasing - he's already helped Chanderpaul add 76 for Warwickshire's seventh-wicket and, unless Yorkshire strike early on day three, could take the game away from the hosts on the third morning.
Most of all, however, there was Chanderpaul. After a watchful start, he grew in confidence and, having swept Wainwright out of the attack, he unveiled some unusually elegant drives and pulled with power and precision. Less eye-catching but equally impressive was the way he nudged and guided the ball into gaps. It was his ninth century in just his 34th Championship game. He's also made 14 half-centuries.
While Chanderpaul insists that international cricket remains his priority - "I'm available for them in all formats" he said - there is now a growing chance that his future is in county cricket. If the West Indies don't want him - and they must be a very fine side to leave out such a talent - Warwickshire surely will.
This was a performance made all the more surprising for the contrast with his batting against Hampshire. Before that game, however, Chanderpaul says he felt short of practise and he responded to the early loss by reporting to Edgbaston for extra training. It seems to have done the trick.
The rest of Warwickshire's batting folded a little too easily. Ian Westwood shuffled in front of one that went straight on, Varun Chopra missed one that nipped back and Jim Troughton again squandered a decent start by edging a flashing cut stroke. Later Darren Maddy was adjudged leg before despite there being a hint of bat involved.
Still, with Chanderpaul there to provide backbone, such issues could be overlooked. Just as Mohammad Yousuf provided a telling contribution in the home game against Worcestershire, Chanderpaul may well have made the telling contribution here. It's exactly what the overseas player is required to do.
Off the pitch the news was less good for Warwickshire. It is understood that Rikki Clarke is almost certain to leave the club at the end of the season and is expected to sign for Sussex within days. While Warwickshire have offered him a new, two-year deal, Sussex have offered three years and the opportunity to bat a little higher up the order in limited-overs cricket. Sussex will be his fourth county side.
He'll be quite an addition. While the runs haven't flowed in the quantity they might have done this season, Clarke has developed into a high-quality fast bowler. He also remains one of the best fielders in the country.
Meanwhile the future of Lancashire's Gary Keedy remains uncertain. While Warwickshire have offered a three-year deal, Lancashire have offered two years. Whatever he decides - and with the T20 and Championship title to be decided in the days ahead, he's not going to decide this week - Keedy's heart, you suspect, remains very much at Old Trafford.