Gloom descends on Warks title hopes
Warwickshire 407 (Evans 138, Javid 133) and 123 for 3 (Chopra 55*) drew with Somerset 340 (Kieswetter 148) and 255 (Compton 91, Patel 5-67)
There could have been no more appropriate metaphor for Warwickshire's chances of retaining the County Championship than the gloom which enshrouded Edgbaston on Friday evening.
Set 189 in 49 overs to beat Somerset and reduce the gap between themselves and leaders Yorkshire to a still formidable 38 points, openers Ian Westwood and Varun Chopra had proceeded in untroubled fashion to 101 for 0 in 24 overs before losing three wickets in 20 balls to Steve Kirby and Alfonso Thomas, both of whom bowled with considerable fire and skill to preserve the three points their side held for the draw.
All the same, with skipper Chopra going well on 55 and 18 overs left in which to score 66 runs, the Bears were still warm favourites if only conditions had remained as balmy and benevolent on the final evening as they had been on the previous three. Providing the weather held, there was no need to play million-dollar shots; fifty-cent pushes would do the job.
Alas for Warwickshire, while the rain that had been reported in Worcester, Bromsgrove, King's Heath and everywhere bar Edgbaston did not arrive until later, the light worsened sufficiently to cause Rob Bailey and Steve Gale to take the players off, despite the deployment of the floodlights, after the umpires' fourth consultation on the matter. "Why aren't you playing cricket?" roared a Warwickshire fan at the officials as they ambled out to inspect conditions. His angry query bore little fruit; further play was ruled out soon afterwards. But the spectators' frustrations were shared by Warwickshire's director of cricket Dougie Brown.
"It's another disappointing day with weather," Brown said. "You begin to wonder why you bother investing in floodlights when it's bright out in the middle and the umpires tell you it's too dark. It beggars belief really.
"The umpires came off because they said it was dangerous. I don't know who it was a danger to. The fielders were throwing themselves around and the batters were taking hook shots on and seeing the ball quite comfortably by their own admission. I'm staggered to know who was in danger."
The draw leaves Warwickshire in fifth place in Division One, 51 points behind Yorkshire with four games to play. The pennant will surely not be returning to Edgbaston. Somerset's concerns are of a different ilk. Though they fought with some grit to get the draw here, Derbyshire's victory over Middlesex leaves Marcus Trescothick's side occupying one of the two relegation places in Division One. Their home games against Derbyshire and Surrey in September are, as it were, 48-pointers.
Warwickshire's opportunity to keep their tissue-thin title chances alive had been created by some fine bowling by Jeetan Patel and Keith Barker in the morning and early afternoon. Together, the pair accounted for seven of the eight Somerset wickets to fall on the final day, Patel collecting his second five-wicket haul of the season and finishing with 5 for 67 off 36 exemplary overs.
Barker was equally as incisive on Friday and some would argue that he really does not suffer in comparison with Chris Woakes as an allrounder Barker bowled at a fair lick and moved the ball sufficiently to catch Nick Compton's inside edge in the ninth over of the morning when he had added only two boundaries to his overnight 83. That dismissal seemed to unnerve the rest of the visitors' batting. James Hildreth lost his leg stump to Patel when trying to work to leg and Kieswetter's fifth ball was also his last, Barker bringing one back in to beat the defensive shot and send the off stump tumbling away.
That left Somerset 159 for 5, an advantage of only 92, and the first session yielded only 59 runs in 29 overs for Trescothick's men as both Patel and debutant Gordon maintained a tight line. Gordon claimed the wicket of nightwatchman George Dockrell who gloved a lifter to Tim Ambrose and he then inflicted more damage of a different ilk when he struck Peter Trego so painfully on the hand that Trego was unable to take the field in Warwickshire's second innings.
The early afternoon session saw the visitors add 63 runs in 15.2 overs as the new ball bowlers Barker and Rikki Clarke came in for some rough treatment from Alex Barrow and Piyush Chawla but Patel accounted for both in successive overs before Barker removed Thomas. It had been a strong purposeful display by the home bowlers while Somerset's batting looked fragile and hesitant once Compton had departed.