Chapple adds to Lancashire concerns
Warwickshire 289 for 4 (Chopra 113, Westwood 70) v Lancashire
After losing the three matches of their opening five least badly affected by the weather, the last thing Lancashire need is to lose their captain, talisman and lead bowler, all three of which descriptions apply to Glen Chapple.
At the end of an opening day demanding the selfless commitment to the cause that has become his speciality, Chapple left the field early complaining of discomfort in his left side. "He's had a bit of pain and he has had it iced but you never know with these things," the Lancashire coach, Peter Moores, said. "He could wake up in the morning and it won't be there or he'll be stiff as a board. We're hoping it's nothing serious. Sides are a nightmare for bowlers. If it's a bad one it could be six or seven weeks."
Lancashire are not short of seam bowlers. Although Tom Smith is currently sidelined, Kyle Hogg and Saj Mahmood offer experienced back-up and the arrival of Ajmal Shahzad from Yorkshire has provided Moores with an unexpected asset. The immediate problem, though, is Chapple's fitness for the remainder of this match. Neither Hogg nor Mahmood is playing, Lancashire having chosen to play with two spinners. Shahzad could face an early test of his stamina as much as his discipline.
Moores can rightly claim 'so far, so good' with regard to the latter. The England fast bowler's move across the Pennines came amid accusations that he did not follow team orders playing for Yorkshire, suggesting that whoever decided they could benefit from his undoubted talent might face a challenge in making it work in their favour.
"I take people as I find them and he has been great so far," Moores said. "He is a high-energy bloke who wants to get stuck in and play some cricket. He has settled in really well, the lads have enjoyed having him around. You've seen him today, he has run in hard and chucked himself around in the field. He has always been that sort of cricketer and hopefully it is a good move for him and a good move for us.
"You have all sorts of different players in a team but he has the energy and enthusiasm you want in a fast bowler. What has been impressive both here and at Hove last week on his debut is that he has run in hard, put a lot of balls in the right areas and asked a lot of questions. He deserved his wicket and on another day could have had more."
Shahzad was impressive enough, bowling the out-of-form Warwickshire captain, Jim Troughton, for the latest in a sequence of low scores, and having Varun Chopra dropped on 51, which was a costly mistake by Stephen Moore at second slip given that the opener more than doubled that score. And Moore was right to contend that, on a flat wicket, to have kept the home side to below three runs per over was a good effort.
But there was no escaping the conclusion that two of the three sessions were won by Warwickshire and the last one was no worse than shared. Chopra and Ian Westwood both played exceptionally well against the new ball, judiciously leaving such threatening deliveries as they could safely avoid, and punishing the bad ones efficiently. Chopra, making his second century of the season, was especially good on the eye when he could cut or drive.
Their partnership of 168 is the biggest opening partnership in Division One so far and Warwickshire's biggest since they put on 202 together against Somerset at Edgbaston last July, when Westwood made a century. He looked set for another one this time and cursed himself when he missed out, pushing at a ball outside off stump from Luke Procter and edging to first slip.
Chopra completed his, after a couple of handsome boundaries in the 90s, from 218 balls, but he too would have wished for a more glorious ending. On 113, having perhaps begun to feel that Lancashire's two spinners were starting to tie him down, he went after Simon Kerrigan with an ungainly heave and was caught at midwicket.
Kerrigan was Lancashire's matchwinner at Edgbaston last season, taking 5 for 7 in the second innings, he and Gary Keedy sharing eight wickets for nine runs as Warwickshire were bowled out for 97, handing Lancashire a victory that ultimately decided the title. If Chapple's injury is serious, they will have important work to do again.
For the moment, though. Warwickshire will fancy themselves for revenge at the double, having beaten Lancashire at Liverpool impressively last month. Their early season form, comprising three wins from four matches, has established them as favourites to take Lancashire's crown. The loss of Ian Bell and Jonathan Trott to England, moreover, is balanced by the return in this match of Chris Woakes, fit again after his ankle injury.
Warwickshire slipped from 224 for 1 to 246 for 4 during Lancashire's best phase of the day. Kerrigan had Will Porterfield caught at slip before Chopra holed out, and then, when the second new ball was taken, Shahzad bowled Troughton. But late runs for Darren Maddy and Tim Ambrose kept the momentum with Warwickshire.