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George Dobell at Edgbaston
April 14, 2012
Warwickshire 243 and 123 for 2 require another 136 more runs to beat Somerset 147 and 354 (Compton 133)
If Somerset go on to win this game, Jim Troughton will surely rue a remarkable, uncharacteristic error in the field. Troughton, the Warwickshire captain and a fielder of some repute, spurned a simple catch at mid off that allowed Somerset, for perhaps the first time in the match, to seize the initiative. It was the sort of chance that Monty Panesar might have taken with one hand behind his back. While balancing on a ball. Blindfolded. In the dark.
Buttler was on just seven at the time and his partnership with Nick Compton worth 12. Mistiming a drive off Keith Barker, Barker saw the ball go straight to Troughton at groin height only for the fielder to inexplicably put it down. The pair subsequently extended their sixth-wicket partnership to 167 with Buttler contributing a fluent 93. It could prove the turning point of this game.
Not that Warwickshire are out of it yet. Set 259 to win, they have made excellent progress through a third-wicket stand of 80 between William Porterfield and Ian Westwood. Porterfield, in particular, has impressed with his shot selection and calculated aggression. He has not scored as heavily as he would have liked since joining the club from Gloucestershire ahead of the 2011 season - he averaged only 25.34 in the championship last year - but this could well prove to be his best innings for Warwickshire.
It would be foolish to presume anything, though. This intriguing game has been characterised by its ebbs and flows with neither side able to take their opportunities. It is sad to report, then, that so few have seen it. While there is much debate over the need for championship cricket on Saturdays, there remains very little evidence that there is a market for it. Over the last few years, Saturday attendances for championship cricket have been pitiful. The coverage in Sunday papers is hardly extensive, either.
Those that were at Edgbaston for the third day witnessed a demonstration of the considerable talents of 21-year-old Buttler. While he is nowhere near the finished article - a propensity to flirt outside his off stump would be exploited at Test level - he plays strokes that hint at something quite special. He sweeps and slog-sweeps unusually well and hits his cover drive with eye-catching force. He fell seven short of a third first-class century when he played across a straight one.
Compton, by comparison, has more prosaic charms. In an age when most batsmen look to go forward and dominate, he is happy to go back, across and defend. He cuts particularly well, though and, having taken 61 balls over his first 50, showed his patience by taking a further 128 over his second. This - the 13th first-class century of his career - was an admirable innings that frustrated the Warwickshire attack immensely and earned his side a decent chance of victory.
Buttler's dismissal sparked a decline, however. Somerset lost three wickets for five runs in 12 balls, with the deserving Chris Wright winning reward for his line and persistence as Compton, back instead of forward, was bowled. Adam Dibble, inevitably nicknamed 'Officer' and another in the abundant stream of young Somerset talent, added a brisk 43 to the total, but won little support. It will have been a painful irony to Warwickshire that Vernon Philander's innings was ended when Troughton, running back from mid off, took an outstanding, diving catch.
Warwickshire, opting to take a positive approach and bludgeon some of the shine from the new ball, promoted Neil Carter to open their second innings. It worked, too, with Carter carving successive fours off Steve Kirby and surviving a tough chance to Arul Suppiah, at long off.
The introduction of spin brought immediate reward, however, as Carter drove to cover and, when Kirby was brought back on for the next over, he dismissed Varun Chopra off an ambitious top-edged pull. At that stage, with 216 more required and a top-order that was far from prolific last year, Warwickshire were in some trouble.
But Porterfield, driving beautifully through the covers, pulling powerfully and using his feet to negate the spin of George Dockrell, revived the home side and has set up a fascinating final day. Troughton may well have a chance to redeem himself.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: George Dobell
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