Evans binds brittle Warwickshire
Warwickshire 254 for 6 (Evans 85*, Westwood 68) v Nottinghamshire
A first Championship win since April and a couple of Friends Life t20 successes and Warwickshire's dismal season suddenly appeared to be looking up. Then came another in a succession of injuries that have blighted their defence of the title they claimed so emphatically in 2012. Chris Wright is the latest victim in this run of poor luck after a scan revealed that a stress fracture lay behind the back troubled that flared up at Uxbridge last week.
Conditioned in the modern way to accentuate the positives, Warwickshire are not inclined to make injuries an excuse. It was the Ashley Giles way and his successor, Dougie Brown, is of a similar mind. Yet there has not been a match, it seems, without two or three of last year's side missing, sometimes more. Inevitably, there are consequences in faltering form.
Only two of the team selected for this match have played in every Championship round; some, such as Keith Barker and Ian Westwood, have missed half or near enough. In addition to Wright, captain Jim Troughton is also absent with back trouble. Oliver Hannon-Dalby, signed in part as cover for injuries, is himself sidelined, also with a stress fracture. At least Laurie Evans has recovered from the broken hand inflicted by a ball from England's Steven Finn in May.
As if to prove it, Evans, the 25-year-old former Surrey batsman, has set himself up to achieve the target he had set himself for when Finn interrupted his progress, namely to complete his first Championship century. He was 15 runs away at the close of the opening day.
It was hard work at times, the result of a sluggish pitch and an appetite for work among the Nottinghamshire bowlers in spite of the building heat. You would expect it of Harry Gurney and Ajmal Shahzad, lithe young men both; less so, perhaps, of the more heavily burdened Luke Fletcher and the creaky Andre Adams. Yet all of them bowled a testing line and length and, for the most part, kept it up.
But Evans maintained his concentration well and picked his moments for some nicely executed shots on both sides of the wicket, picking up a dozen boundaries. "It was attritional cricket and they bowled well and I played probably the worst I have played at the beginning of an innings all year but it was a matter of hanging tough and getting through it and I played a lot more fluently later," he said. "I like to be attacking and I've got out in the past by trying to dominate at the wrong times and going at balls I shouldn't be so I was pleased to come through the difficult periods."
Evans anchored at least a partial recovery by Warwickshire, who lost Varun Chopra to a gloved catch to second slip early and then saw William Porterfield leave a ball from Adams that clipped his off stump. Westwood rode his luck somewhat, surviving dropped catches on 32 and 50 before clipping a ball from Samit Patel straight to mid-on for 67.
Tim Ambrose, who took it upon himself to up the pace of scoring after lunch, raced to 39 off 43 balls before brushing a leg-side delivery from Adams to be caught behind, but when Patel's left-arm spin bowled Chris Woakes and Rikki Clarke fell to a stunning catch by James Taylor at midwicket Warwickshire felt danger welling up again at 213 for 6.
Adams, who is 38 on Wednesday, finished the day on 3 for 49 from 24 overs, again underlining his durability. Adams is a strong man yet fragile in the sense that he needs to care for himself assiduously lest something goes badly wrong and ends his career. His skills with the ball, though, seem never to diminish.
He willingly passes them on, too, frequently accompanying a younger bowling team-mate back to his mark, offering a word of encouragement or advice. He seems to have taken Shahzad under his wing in particular as Nottinghamshire try to mould the former Yorkshire quick into a bowler with more than simply pace and menace to his game.
The improvement is coming, too. Adams apart, no one troubled the batsmen more and it was he who was left fuming when Westwood had his moments of luck as Patel and then Alex Hales failed to do their duty in the slips. Nought for 49 did not do him justice.