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Jon Culley at Edgbaston
April 12, 2013
Warwickshire 90 for 0 (Chopra 48*, Weswtood 31*) trail Derbyshire 226 (Palladino 68, Patel 3-37, Wright 3-48) by 136 runs
Everywhere you look at Edgbaston, there seems to be a picture of Chris Wright and Keith Barker, grinning broadly, one hand each on the LV= Championship trophy. And with good reason. With 118 wickets between them, their strike bowling partnership was the key to many a Warwickshire victory.
Yet there was another key alliance at the heart of Warwickshire's success and the scoreboard at the close of day three in this rain-ruined beginning to their title defence might indicate that it remains in fine working order. The Varun Chopra-Ian Westwood partnership at the top of the order developed into one of the most reliable in the competition. Both batsmen ended the season averaging in the forties and five times they gave the Warwickshire innings the perfect platform by scoring more than 100 runs without being parted.
It was a contribution not to be underestimated. If the ability to take 20 wickets is key to winning Championship matches, then amassing totals that can be defended comes a solid second. The left-handed Westwood has endured some tough times in the last few years, fulfilling a career ambition by landing the captaincy but giving it up at the end of the 2010 season when he struggled for form. Subsequently, his place in the side was often little more than a stop gap when Ian Bell was on England duty.
He started last year slowly but his form picked up in the second half, when the partnership with Chopra was at its most formidable. In one six-innings sequence the pair compiled stands of 100, 175 and 136. Westwood made two centuries in August, 19 days apart.
Westwood's recovery has been to Chopra's benefit, too. The more at ease Chopra has become in the partnership, the more consistent has his form been. The only other England qualified batsman to pass 1,000 first-class runs in Division One last season was Nick Compton, who earned his elevation to the Test side as a result.
Chopra, a 25-year old right-hander, has prospered, like his team-mate, Wright, since moving to Edgbaston from Essex. He made 1,000 runs in 2011 as well. His reward -- alongside Wright -- was a place in the 17-man England Performance Programme squad in India and a Lions tour to Australia, where he scored centuries in two 50-over matches, the second in the first meeting with Australia A in Hobart. Like Wright, he has been named also in in the provisional squad for the ICC Champions Trophy.
Those spectators with the patience to wait for some action at a dank and gloomy Edgbaston yesterday saw Chopra and Westwood finish 10 short of another three-figure partnership, which will offer Warwickshire encouragement from a match destined to end in a draw. After the fragmented action that followed a 3.30 start, about 90 minutes of play was possible, and the conditions, in terms of pitch and atmospheric conditions, and the need to focus and refocus as stoppage followed stoppage, were hardly ideal for batting. Yet Chopra and Westwood set about their business with a familiar efficiency.
Derbyshire might consider themselves a little unlucky. Tim Groenewald saw Chopra dropped on 10, albeit off a very hard chance high in the air to Ross Whiteley at point, and edge just short of first slip on 19. But Chopra picked off nine boundaries to illustrate to the newcomers how narrow are the margins for bowling error in First Division cricket as Warwickshire finished the day with a platform for a decent yield of batting points on the last day, if nothing else.
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