Lancashire crumble after draining Clarke ton
Lancashire 61 for 5 (Woakes 2-7) trail Warwickshire 557 for 6 dec (Clarke 123*, Chopra 113, Ambrose 96) by 496 runs
Unless the weather takes a drastic turn for the worse, it is impossible to see Lancashire escaping another confidence-sapping defeat after finishing five wickets down and still the small matter of 347 runs shy of even avoiding the follow-on.
This was in reply to a Warwickshire total that was more than five sessions in the making, which was significant in itself in that it left Lancashire weary and dispirited and not in the best of shape, in terms of physical and mental readiness, to face a Warwickshire bowling attack with 25 overs in which to bend their backs and put pressure on a batting unit already short of confidence.
Glen Chapple, whose absence from the bowling attack clearly eased the way for Warwickshire's batsmen, spoke boldly of having players at his disposal with the quality to build partnerships. So far, though, apart from the 31 runs Paul Horton and Stephen Moore managed to put on before everything began to unravel, no combination has managed more than 14 and Lancashire are already down to Ashwell Prince and the wicketkeeper, Gareth Cross, with only the wounded Chapple and the explosive Ajmal Shahzad to come before the genuine tailenders, Gary Keedy and Simon Kerrigan.
Their dreadful start to the season, therefore, shows little sign of getting better very soon. Warwickshire's dominance of the opening day simply carried forward into the second. Chapple, who will have a scan on Monday to ascertain whether his side strain is a short-term problem or something more inconvenient, had to leave the first overs, with the ball still fairly new, in the hands of Luke Procter and Shahzad. But the latter, who had bowled well without much luck on Wednesday, did not have the same control this time, giving away too many cheap runs.
Keedy and Kerrigan, therefore, were pressed into tandem service inside the first hour and barely rested from then on. Kerrigan's 49 overs represented the heaviest workload of his career so far. Keedy wound up bowling 50, which he has done before but not as a 37-year-old.
By the end they were understandably weary, their sterling efforts at least to restrict Warwickshire's progress interrupted from time to time by Rikki Clarke letting rip with one of his four sixes. They had found some turn, but not to a degree that troubled anyone much.
When the declaration came, perhaps a little later than it might have, Warwickshire's attack, in form and bolstered by the return of Chris Woakes, scented blood.
Woakes had not played since damaging ankle ligaments in March but you would not have known it. Confidence tuned up after hitting half a dozen boundaries in an unbeaten 43, he ran in with purpose and took a wicket with his 10th ball, adding a second in the penultimate over, at which point Lancashire were 54 for 5.
Earlier, he had persuaded umpire Michael Gough that he had Karl Brown caught off the glove with a ball that spat off a length, rocking Lancashire on their heels at 32 for 2 after opener Horton had been leg-before to a full length delivery from the left-armer Keith Barker, who was being assessed by one of England's talent spotters, Geoff Arnold.
Then Barker's new-ball partner, Chris Wright, who had switched ends after giving way to Woakes at the Birmingham End, took two wickets in four balls, beating Moore for pace with one that plucked out his off stump, then having Steven Croft caught behind with another that found some venomous bounce.
Clarke, who had an escape on 57 when Kerrigan failed to hang on to a difficult return catch, finished unbeaten on 123, having batted for more than three and a half hours with a level of discipline and self-restraint that reflects a more mature approach to his game.
He put on 147 for the sixth wicket with Tim Ambrose, who was within sight of his first century for three years when he chipped to short midwicket for 96. The only other wicket to fall, after half an hour of the opening session, had been that of Darren Maddy, who miscued Keedy to be caught at mid-off.