Wright's best gets Warwickshire moving
Warwickshire 345 (Troughton 84) and 351 (Ambrose 105, Clarke 92) beat Durham 284 (Borthwick 101) and 94 (Wright 6-31) by 318 runs
It has taken Chris Wright a while to find his feet in professional cricket. He was overlooked by three counties and even went to Sri Lanka to get a game. But he has clicked at Edgbaston. He took his best figures for the county as they steamrollered Durham on the final day.
Warwickshire got their title defence up and running by demolishing Durham with 46 overs to spare on the final day. Wright, having taken the one wicket to fall before the close on Friday, followed up with a morning spell of 3 for 10 and finished with 6 for 31 - his best performance for the county.
Hampshire, Middlesex and Essex all got a good look at Wright and will wonder why the skills that increasingly encourage talk that he is an England bowler-in-waiting never previously surfaced.
He nearly did not get his chance at Warwickshire either. Graeme Welch had to lobby Ashley Giles extensively to get him to take Wright on loan during 2011 but Giles was grateful for Welch's insight.
Wright's bowling inspired Warwickshire to glory almost immediately. His first three appearances included two five-wicket hauls and 22 wickets at 24.31 nearly won the Championship in 2011. 62 scalps at 24.06 last year saw Warwickshire romp away with the pennant. Only poor weather prevented their coronation earlier than the penultimate match of last season.
It is hard to make a case against them winning consecutive titles. The bowling attack is unmatched and the batting has enough runs in it, particularly the lower order, to allow the unrelenting foursome of Wright, Keith Barker, Rikki Clarke and Chris Woakes, plus the spin of Jeetan Patel, to win matches.
Warwickshire underlined that, given a full match, they will outlast most teams. Durham competed very well for two-and-a-half days but eventually fell away like a tired jet skier, falling to their heaviest runs defeat against Warwickshire. Phil Mustard's 28 in 140 minutes was as stubborn as they got until he was last out, carving Chris Woakes to point. Paul Collingwood clung on for an hour for 5.
The result in no way reflects the situation on the third morning where Durham got on top. That moment and their defeat of Somerset in the opening round will be give confidence that they will survive comfortably. But their batting is not good enough to finish any higher than mid-table. In 16 innings this season the first four Durham batsmen have scored 99 runs and mustered only three double-figure scores between them.
Their top three is especially vulnerable. Mark Stoneman and Will Smith are both experienced players with average-to-poor returns. Smith is on an especially poor run. His last 13 innings in the Championship have yielded 74 runs. He was picked this season only on the strength of a century against Durham MCCU in the first match of the year.
Twenty-year-old Keaton Jennings is also in that top three. All of them fell to Barker in the first innings and all were claimed by Wright in the second innings. They were not the first and won't be the last to succumb to highly accurate seam bowling that swung a little.
It swung more as the match went on and the wind calmed. Wright said both teams struggled in the strong gusts of the first two days. But the Durham attack - most notably Ben Stokes - found some reverse-swing on the third afternoon and that was a precursor to Warwickshire finding some deadly movement on day four.
"The fact that we were moving it both ways made it a lot harder for them," Wright said in sympathy for the Durham batsman who were rolled for their lowest total against Warwickshire. "Moving the ball around in the air is something this team has been particularly good at."
Wright enjoyed a winter in India working with England bowling coach Kevin Shine. He developed a delivery that shapes away from the left-hander - a skill that has been extremely beneficial for James Anderson - that was evident in the first dismissal of the day. Stoneman followed a back of a length ball that left him slightly and edged behind.
But new deliveries or not, Wright felt the full force of flat Australian wickets after Christmas with just four wickets at 49.00 as England went winless on the seven-match List A tour. It was a chastening experience but Wright is used to some low points in his career.
"More than anything it was good to be exposed to the conditions, the flatter wickets, and to be involved in the England set up," Wright said. "But you did need to keep your chin up."
Alex Winter is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo