Warks falter after Westwood knock
Warwickshire 293 for 8 (Westwood 120, Roland-Jones 3-65) lead Middlesex 287 by six runs
Warwickshire's response provided the measure of Middlesex's first innings, which may not have been below par to the extent it was suspected after the Division One leaders made hard work of getting their noses in front. With Ian Blackwell, the former England allrounder, coming in at No. 8, Warwickshire's batting line-up looked irresistibly strong, yet there were more failures than successes and they take a lead of only six runs into the third day, eight wickets down.
Yet they had been 175 without loss as Ian Westwood and Varun Chopra again demonstrated their effectiveness as an opening partnership. The two have shared four three-figure stands this season, three of those in the last six innings. Until Chopra fell to a fine, diving catch by Sam Robson at gully off the first ball of Gareth Berg's second spell, they seemed capable of establishing a lead all on their own.
They had ridden their luck at times, in terms of streaky runs off the edge of the bat, but as on Tuesday nothing went to hand. And as the ball aged their authority grew. Chopra, unusually, was the more passive partner, allowing Westwood to take the lead. The left-hander's first 51 runs spanned 85 balls, to which he added his next 41 at a run a ball, increasing his boundary count from seven to 16. Only in the 90s did he feel he should take stock, facing 22 balls while scoring only six before his 17th four took him to 102.
Westwood gave up the Warwickshire captaincy two years ago after enduring a full season without a first-class century. This was his fifth since then and his second in the space of three weeks, both against Middlesex.
It seemed to give Warwickshire a platform for a substantial total yet thereafter the innings somewhat lost its way. No subsequent combination was able to add more than 29 and if Chris Wright and Keith Barker are parted quickly on the third morning Warwickshire will have achieved scarcely better than parity.
A hailstorm drove the players from the field with a dozen overs left of day two, leaving puddles on the outfield that had not drained more than an hour after the storm had passed, which illustrated the problems the groundstaff still face after such a wet summer.
They were not helped in their attempts to protect the square by the umpires' indecision about when to take the players off, even though dark clouds were looming ominously. Jim Troughton cannot have been impressed either, given that it was in pretty poor light that he was caught at second slip off Tim Murtagh, who is not exactly on the slower side of medium.
Others had less obvious excuses. As on day one, anything bowled too short asked to be hit but fuller deliveries posed problems. There were some notable catches, with Steven Crook matching Robson for athleticism at gully when he held a stunner, diving to his right, to give Neil Dexter the wicket of Darren Maddy.
It was Dexter's medium pace, ultimately, that did for Westwood, inducing a chip to mid-off from a mistimed drive, after facing 183 balls for his 120. There was a maiden Championship wicket for the 21-year-old left-arm spinner Ravi Patel, who started nervously but found some confidence after William Porterfield edged to slip.
The innings took a sharp downturn after the new ball became available, with Toby Roland-Jones inflicting the most damage and removing three of Warwickshire's better bets for another substantial score. He had Rikki Clarke caught behind with a ball that found some extra bounce and followed up when Tim Ambrose edged one that cut away late. Blackwell was leg before to one that nipped back and stayed low.