Chopra steers Warks back on track
Warwickshire 463 (Westwood 68, Evans 178, Javid 83) and 180 for 6 dec. (Woakes 60, Clarke 54*) beat Nottinghamshire 217 (Taylor 80, Lumb 51; J Patel 4-60) and 210 (Hales 58; Patel 4-68) by 216 runs
Warwickshire gave more substance to their conviction that they can yet mount a successful defence of their 2012 title with a well-won victory over Nottinghamshire that puts them back in contention with six matches remaining, albeit with plenty still to do.
Worryingly for Nottinghamshire, who have found themselves hard pressed to bowl sides out this season and without a top quality spin bowler to exploit the summer's increasingly dry pitches, they lost from a position they would have hoped to defend after going to lunch only two wickets down.
They will consider what happened in the 45 overs that followed as deeply disappointing but Warwickshire deserved much credit for the skill and persistence of their bowlers and the imagination used by Varun Chopra, their temporary captain, who took the opportunity provided by a big lead to set attacking but sometimes unconventional fields, deploying three short midwickets as well as a short extra-cover for the seamers, and giving Jeetan Patel, his front-line spinner, the benefit of two close-in fielders on each side of the wicket, as well as a slip and a short fine leg.
It meant there were no periods in which Nottinghamshire could comfortably use up time, the pressure always on them to avoid mistakes. In the end, it was just too much for them.
They had gone to lunch 78 for 2, which in many instances would seem to be a position that offered them every prospect of hanging on grimly. Steven Mullaney had been bowled by the 12th ball of the morning but Michael Lumb had been the only other casualty, caught behind off Keith Barker, with Tim Ambrose standing up.
Alex Hales, in such woeful form in the four-day game this season that he played here only because Riki Wessels has a broken thumb, turned out to be their strongest line of resistance, batting more than four hours for only his second half-century of the season.
But both James Taylor and Chris Read fell cheaply and when Hales finally chipped a ball from Patel to short mid-on a second body blow quickly followed as Samit Patel, who had appeared to have successfully reined himself in after a breezy start, was given out in circumstances he disputed, caught by one of the short midwickets when adamant he had played the ball from Rikki Clarke into the ground. His slow departure, accompanied by words and gestures aimed at umpire Trevor Jesty, may land him in trouble.
With Read following him back shortly afterwards, the third of four victims for New Zealand offspinner Jeetan Patel, odds swung heavily in Warwickshire's favour. Nottinghamshire reached tea with no further losses but the 35 overs remaining must have seemed a long stretch with only four wickets remaining.
Patel bowled Ajmal Shahzad with the first ball of the final session and even though David Hussey was still there a sense of the inevitable hung over him. Andre Adams was caught by Ian Westwood at short leg off Patel and then came the new ball, taken after 84 overs.
Hussey was well held low down at first slip by Chopra before Boyd Rankin, aware that the short ball would eventually reap a dividend, kept banging them in until Luke Fletcher obliged with a fended edge to third slip.
Chopra believes Warwickshire, who had looked so forlorn only a couple of weeks ago, are back in the hunt after following up their defeat of Middlesex at Uxbridge. "I don't know where we stand in points but we have to play Yorkshire next and Sussex are still to come here and if we are playing good cricket we are a match for most sides," he said.
"We had to be patient in this game. On wickets like this at Edgbaston, trying to get 20 wickets is always very difficult. Against Lancashire we made them follow-on and they batted out the day.
"We didn't enforce here and it was always in the back of your mind that it might have been the wrong decision but we felt if we added a few more runs to give us a big lead to work with and the wicket might deteriorate a bit more and that would be to our advantage with an international spinner in the side."