Ambrose edges Warks closer to title
Nottinghamshire 188 for 4 (Hales 80*, Read 54*) trail Warwickshire 504 for 6 (Ambrose 151*, Westwood 81, Blackwell 69*) by 316 runs
If the bounce in Warwickshire's step and the low set of Nottinghamshire's shoulders was anything to go by as Tim Ambrose and Ian Blackwell piled on the runs at Edgbaston, the participants in this game believe the die is already cast in the race for the County Championship.
Warwickshire, with every chance of taking maximum bonus points, will be happy with a draw from a rain-affected match, which would consolidate what already looks like a title-winning lead. When Nottinghamshire slumped to 69 for 4, their cause not helped when James Taylor trod on his stumps after he had scored only a single, it seemed they might do even better than that. At least Chris Read, who comes with a desire to uphold team pride as fierce as most players, was ready to make a fight of it.
When bad light forced an early close - early in times of overs left, if not the time on the clock - he and Alex Hales had put on 119 for the fifth wicket, with every hope of adding a few more on the final morning. Another 167 are required, however, for the follow-on point to be passed.
This is because Warwickshire, who were 298 for 5 before rain washed out the whole of the second day, cracked on at such a pace in the morning session against a weakened Nottinghamshire attack they were able to declare on 504 for 6, just seven overs after lunch. Maximum batting points were sealed with eight balls of the first 110 overs to spare during an onslaught that added 206 in just 37 overs.
Tim Ambrose finished unbeaten on 151 - his first century since he hit three in 2009 - after rarely passing up a chance to score against weary Nottinghamshire bowling. His hundred came off 169 balls with 17 fours, to which he had added five more plus a six before the declaration came. There was an impressive crispness to his driving and there was a confidence about him, after so long without a substantial score, that you suspect reflects the buoyancy in the whole Warwickshire team at the moment, aware that the title that eluded them last season is now theirs to lose.
Nottinghamshire have conceded, more or less, that if anyone is to deprive Warwickshire this time, it will not be them. With Andre Adams taking no further part after aggravating his calf injury on Tuesday, the seam bowling trio of Luke Fletcher, Andy Carter and Paul Franks were unable to do much to stem the flow of runs and Graeme White, the left-arm spinner, took some heavy punishment, especially at the hands of Ian Blackwell. Fletcher, who is not the lightest man on the field, deserves special mention for his stamina, getting through 37 overs and finishing with an economy rate of 2.75 even after his last three went for 24.
The only wicket to fall went to White after Chris Wright had added a first-half century for Warwickshire to the 69 Championship wickets he has taken since joining them from Essex towards the end of last season. Attempting to hit the ball over midwicket, Wright - ostensibly nightwatchman - got a leading edge which Carter collected at mid-off.
Blackwell, on loan from Durham and with an interest in following Wright's lead by obtaining a full contract, hit 69 off 59 balls, with five sixes, four of them off White. He may have to do more with the ball, however, to make his move permanent.
Nottinghamshire, needing to pass 354 to avoid the follow-on, started badly when Riki Wessels, who had just found the boundary on the leg side with a similar shot, flicked a ball from Wright straight into the hands of Ian Westwood at square leg. Keith Barker, finding some dangerous swing, then drew the left-handed Michael Lumb to play at one outside off stump, taken by Varun Chopra at first slip.
Taylor was unfortunate - or careless, depending on your point of view - when he went back to a ball from Wright and knocked the bails off with his boot as he played on the leg side. Either way, it was not what Nottinghamshire needed from the newly elevated Test batsman and when Adam Voges, chasing a widish ball from young Tom Milnes that kept somewhat low, was snapped up superbly by William Porterfield at gully, Nottinghamshire were in serious trouble. For Milnes, the 19-year-old seamer who has come in for Darren Maddy in this match, it was a first Championship wicket at Edgbaston and Warwickshire, their tails up, celebrated it with some gusto.
But Alex Hales, after surviving an edge between first and second slip off Wright on 43, completed an 86-ball half century and had moved to 80 from 136 deliveries at the close, with Read responding to the challenge in his familiar, positive style. There is much work still to be done, however, if Warwickshire's charge is to be delayed.