Warwickshire v Nottinghamshire, Edgbaston, 3rd day July 17, 2013

Title defence not beyond Warks

Jon Culley at Edgbaston

Nottinghamshire 217 (Taylor 80, Patel 4-60) and 38 for 0 require another 389 runs to beat Warwickshire 463 and 180 for 6 dec. (Woakes 60, Clarke 54*)

On a day of tricky moments for their stand-in captain, Varun Chopra, Warwickshire played themselves into a position from which they can reinforce their conviction that a successful defence of their 2012 title is not yet beyond them, despite winning only once in the first half of the season.

If Chopra's decision not to enforce the follow-on was met with puzzlement among some Warwickshire supporters inclined towards conventional thinking, it looked like the right thing to do by the close.

After Chris Woakes and Rikki Clarke had blazed away at a run-a-ball in a sixth-wicket stand that added 104, Chopra called a halt with a lead of 426, exposing Nottinghamshire to an uncomfortable 11 overs in which they came through unscathed, just. Alex Hales, on 8, was put down by Clarke at second slip off Keith Barker; a difficult chance high to his right, but not beyond his scope.

They need a further 389 to win or more realistically to avoid losing 10 wickets, otherwise Warwickshire will be take 22 points from a second win from as many games so far in the second half of the season. The gap between themselves and leaders Sussex stood at 50 points going into this match.

Earlier, Nottinghamshire had been bowled out for 217, which may look like a fairly feeble performance from 131 for 2 overnight given Warwickshire's formidable first-innings total but interpreted in that way would not do justice to some fine bowling, particularly by Barker, the left-arm seamer whose progress in the last three seasons has been so impressive.

Barker took 3 for 44 from 16 overs, the wickets all coming in the space of 16 deliveries in which he produced three jaffas, essentially, to dismiss Samit Patel, forced to play and caught at first slip, James Taylor and Chris Read, both caught behind. Taylor was looking very comfortable, closing in on a third Championship century of the season, when Barker produced a ball that squared him up but then left him late to take the edge.

Had he not taken so much out of himself last season, when he and Chris Wright bowled themselves into the ground to win Warwickshire the title, and then missed five matches through injury this year, Barker would surely have been in the England Lions squad at least.

Barker is developing a wide set of skills, although not all of them appreciated by every opponent. Ajmal Shahzad, for instance, was not impressed by seeing Barker stick out his left hand, as if he were signalling a turn on a bicycle, as he ran in to bowl and twice stepped away from his crease, complaining he was distracted.

It was this that prompted Chopra's other tricky moment as a spat threatened to develop, with Shahzad and Clarke -- standing at second slip and presumably offering an opinion -- involved in a verbal exchange. Umpires Trevor Jesty and Richard Illingworth in turn spoke to Chopra before calm resumed. Shahzad was drawing attention to himself anyway by walking off towards square leg between every delivery he faced - and not just a couple of strides; more like four pitch widths. Clarke appeared to have a view on that practice, as well.

One way or another, Nottinghamshire's morning did not go well, with four wickets lost for 69 runs added, beginning with a sharp return catch held by Jeetan Patel off a leading edge offered by Michael Lumb. Patel, the offspinner later had David Hussey caught at short midwicket and bowled Luke Fletcher. Warwickshire will look to him mainly on the last day.

It was Clarke who saw off Shahzad in the end while Boyd Rankin belatedly got among the wickets by bowling Andre Adams, whose absence with a sickness bug when Nottinghamshire were asked to bowl again, did not appear too much of a hindrance as Warwickshire, who had Ian Westwood caught at second slip before they had added a run, slipped to 75 for 5. Laurie Evans, their first-innings champion, perished for 2 this time, running into a good ball from Shahzad that clipped his off stump.

But they had the comfort of a big lead and between them Clarke and Woakes comprehensively took the game away from Nottinghamshire, were they not already out of it.