Warks find their fit under Brown
Nottinghamshire 131 for 2 (Taylor 54*, Lumb 50*) trail Warwickshire 463 (Evans 178, Javid 83, Westwood 68) by 332 runs
In matters of form we tend often to suppose there are turning points, pivotal moments when something happens to go from bad to good, to correct imperfections, to make a misfiring engine sound sweet again. Ten days ago, their reputations smarting from a third defeat in three FL t20s, bottom of their group in the YB40, next to bottom in Division One of the Championship, Warwickshire's season appeared to be in hopeless disarray.
Yet since then they have scored 486 and 463 in the space of three Championship innings, beating Middlesex along the way, and won both T20s. Has something changed?
Dougie Brown, still testing the fit of Ashley Giles's considerable shoes as director of cricket, at first says no but then admits that the dressing room is probably only now becoming used to the change. "When you have a transition period as we have, people don't really know for a while where everybody is but I think everyone knows where they fit now and everyone is getting on with what they are doing," he said.
"When you are not winning you start to question what you are doing because you have no evidence to demonstrate it is working. But we have re-assessed, had mid-season appraisals, where we [the coaching staff] have spoken very honestly with the players and had good communication both ways and I think we have drawn a line in the sand."
Laurie Evans will feel better now about where he fits. An underachiever in his career so far, he has shown a talent for high scores in 2nd XI cricket that was frustratingly slow to transfer to senior level. Surrey lost patience with him, apparently, but Warwickshire have persevered and they could mix a little self-congratulation with the applause from the team balcony as the 25-year-old moved painlessly from 85 overnight to his maiden Championship hundred.
He crossed the line with a nice square cut, watching it hop over the boundary rope at the furthest point from him and appearing to need a moment or two to let it sink in before raising his bat above his head. With that he cast aside the long passages of sometimes grim graft that had got him there, supplementing a century spanning 260 balls with another 50 from only 37, including three fours in a row in one Samit Patel over and consecutive sixes off David Hussey, whose over of offspin perhaps not surprisingly was his last.
Patel, who worked his way through 39 overs in the searing heat, finally made a breakthrough well into the afternoon session as Evans, beginning to think about a double-hundred, went down the pitch to hit over the top but was beaten by the left-armer and bowled.
Evans and 21-year-old Ateeq Javid, another batsman only just beginning to make an impact, added 199 for the seventh wicket, although Nottinghamshire might conceivably have parted them sooner had Andre Adams not been limited to five overs, spending much of the day seeking a cool spot in the dressing room after feeling unwell.
The heat appeared to be getting to Javid at one point, inducing almost a swoon before a drink was hurried on to the field. He recovered well enough and was two short of equalling his career-best 85 when Ajmal Shahzad, after 31 wicketless overs, had him caught behind. It has not been a bad week for a player Brown affectionely refers to as a "street fighter". He took 4 for 17 with his offspin in Sunday's Twenty20 win over Gloucestershire, which was a career-best.
On a slow pitch, Warwickshire claimed only three batting points but were not complaining as Nottinghamshire began their reply by losing Steven Mullaney, their latest improvising opener, to the first ball, straight and quick from Chris Woakes. It would have been 5 for 2 had a chance flashed to third slip by Michael Lumb off Keith Barker's opening ball stuck in Jeetan Patel's outstretched hand.
Lumb took no such liberties thereafter and though he lost a second partner when Patel turned an offbreak to trap Alex Hales leg-before, playing no shot, with the total on 47, he and James Taylor eased their way into a partnership worth 84 unbroken at the close, both men completing half-centuries in the last over of the day.
Should they prosper further the match could drift into a tame stalemate. Warwickshire's confidence is on the up, though, to the extent that Brown has not written off their title defence, even from a 50-point deficit at the start of this match.
"There has never been any doubt that we are still in with a shout in the Championship because we know that if you string a couple of good performances together you can build up a bit of momentum," he said. "And I've always said it is not how you start the season but how you finish that counts. We are within striking distance of the pack and are starting to play some pretty good cricket."