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George Dobell at Edgbaston
April 12, 2012
Warwickshire 111 for 3 trail Somerset 147 (Wright 4-47) by 36 runs
It will be an irony lost to few in Essex that, while the club finds itself in Division Two of the County Championship, two of its old boys who struggled to find a role at Chelmsford, are producing sterling performances for a club that could well challenge for the title.
By the time Chris Wright realised his career at Essex was going nowhere - about midway through last year - he was 26 years old and had a bowling average uncomfortably close to 40. The future was not bright for a fast bowler who had already had a spell with Middlesex.
Declining the offer of a contract from Gloucestershire, Wright instead took his chances with a month-long trial at Warwickshire towards the end of last season. The instigator of the move was Graeme Welch, previously bowling coach at Essex and now performing the same role with Warwickshire, who always felt that Wright was a man with more to offer.
It has proved a masterstroke. Wright, inspired with fulsome backing of his colleagues and coaches, has grasped his chance gleefully and, such was his potency on the first day of this game, that Warwickshire barely had cause to miss the injured pair of Boyd Rankin and Chris Woakes. Generating sharp pace, using the crease intelligently and hitting the pitch hard, Wright gained consistent seam movement and, in four-and-a-half Championship games, has now taken 26 wickets at only 22.38 for his new club.
"I'm not doing anything differently," he said. "I was playing well for the seconds at Essex, but they have a strong attack and I wasn't selected for the first team. We used the new ball well today, but it's not a 150 pitch. It looks a good pitch."
Wright's bowling played a considerable part in reducing Somerset to 95 for 8; not what the visitors had in mind when they won the toss and elected to bat. It was not necessarily the wrong decision, however. While the conditions certainly provided assistance - both in the air and off the pitch - Tony Pigott the ECB pitch liaison officer declared himself satisfied and, had Somerset's top-order shown a little more application and technical nous, they could have made the decision work for them. Warwickshire confirmed that they would also have chosen to bat.
As it was, though, Warwickshire's opening pair bowled beautifully, were well supported by their fielders and found Somerset's batsmen just a little loose. Wright, going wide of the crease and angling the ball in, had Arul Suppiah and Craig Kieswetter taken in the slips by fine deliveries that left them off the seam, while Nick Compton was beaten by the one that went straight on.
Keith Barker, the left-arm paceman, lost nothing in comparison. He consistently swung the ball into the right-handers and his opening spell to Marcus Trescothick was quite masterful. Time and again the Somerset opener was drawn forward and beaten by late away movement and it took him 18 balls to get off the mark.
Eventually the pressure told. Trescothick, drawn into prodding at one, edged to second slip while next delivery, after a brief break for rain, James Hildreth's somewhat loose drive was defeated by a superb inswinger. Later Peter Trego's attempt to force through the off side resulted in an edge, Jos Buttler was caught down the leg side - and walked rather than waited for the umpire's decision - and Adam Dibble set off for an unlikely single only to see his partner remain rooted in the crease.
That Somerset reached as many as 147 was largely due to Vernon Philander. The South African counterattacked sensibly, pulling one six off a labouring Neil Carter and driving another off Darren Maddy. His 38 may not sound like much but, in the context of the match, could yet prove a significant contribution.
The only man to score more in the day was another former Essex man, Varun Chopra. The Warwickshire opener, who scored a double-century against this opposition in the first game of last season (his first of three double-centuries in 12 months), produced an excellent demonstration of the technique and temperament required to survive in such conditions. Although batting was never easy, he left well, played straight and - crucially - took advantage of the rare poor ball. Having picked up nine runs from his first 56, he struck three boundaries in an over off Trego - each of them a delightful backfoot drive - and provided the foundations on which Warwickshire can build.
His partners struggled. Ian Westwood, trapped in the crease, was beaten by a straight one, before William Porterfield was caught down the leg side and Jim Troughton, back when he should have been forward, was comprehensively bowled.
Philander threatened throughout and, with a bit of luck, might have enjoyed more success. But Chopra has succeeded where Somerset's top-order failed and, against the softening ball, batting should become easier.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: George Dobell
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