Woakes repels fighting Derbyshire
Warwickshire 285 for 8 (Woakes 102*, Groenewald 4-67) v Derbyshire
Derbyshire's last throw of the dice began with a demonstration of faith in the team has taken them to the last round of games clinging to the possibility that they still might not go down, in spite of the weight of evidence, when they lost for the seventh time in 11 matches in mid-July, that theirs was a hopeless cause.
They were trounced by Durham on this ground two weeks ago, bowled out for 63 in the second innings as Graham Onions, then in enthusiastic pursuit of the Ashes tour spot for which he has been bizarrely overlooked, appeared in the words of a bemused Karl Krikken to have the ball on a string.
But there was no panic. Krikken, their head coach, made sure his younger players remained focused on the three wins in four that had preceded the Durham defeat and resisted the temptation to make changes, even though he could have recalled Chesney Hughes, who has returned to the country from paternity leave in the United States, and has Wes Durston, Mark Turner and Peter Burgoyne available.
Wayne Madsen won the toss and asked Warwickshire to bat and it would have been their day beyond dispute but for Chris Woakes, who demonstrated for the second time in a week that he is becoming a batsman of outstanding quality. Indeed, well though he played against Surrey last week in a match-winning partnership with Ateeq Javid, he was more impressive still.
Where last week he took runs against a Surrey attack whose heads were dropping visibly as their relegation became inevitable, this time there was genuine pressure. Derbyshire may be similarly imperilled, but when Woakes came to the crease their tails were up. The loss of Rikki Clarke to the second ball after lunch had Warwickshire 89 for 4. They were 278 for 8 with three overs remaining in the day when he completed a century spanning more than four hours.
Woakes, who made his Test debut in the final match of the Ashes series just finished, is another puzzling omission from England's winter plans, featuring in neither the main touring party not the group selected for the Performance Programme.
Derbyshire's task here is straightforward in that to have any prospect of overtaking Nottinghamshire or Somerset and avoiding Surrey's fate they must win, and preferably handsomely, although even that might not be enough. A high-scoring draw between Nottinghamshire and Somerset could have the effect of closing Derbyshire out to the benefit of both their rivals, a result that may be a possibility after Somerset's decision to insert backfired at Trent Bridge.
This match at least features two sides committed to winning. Warwickshire have the incentive of finishing third in the Championship table, with a prize of more than £100,000.
In conditions that helped the ball swing, Derbyshire enjoyed early rewards for putting Warwickshire's batting to the test. Mark Footitt began untidily, sending down four no-balls in his first over, but quickly put that aberration behind him, inducing an edge to third slip from Ian Westwood with the last ball of his second over, then trapping Varun Chopra in front playing back in his third.
Footitt would have added Javid's wicket had Tom Poynton not committed the first of two mistakes in quick succession. He dropped the right-hander, who made an accomplished hundred against Surrey, on six and did so again on 13, when Tony Palladino was the bowler.
To an extent, Javid made them pay. But with neither Laurie Evans nor Clarke able to put down roots Warwickshire were 120 for 5 when Poynton held on to a chance down the leg side and Javid was gone for 46. Stuart Poynter, the Ireland international who is Warwickshire's fourth wicketkeeper in as many matches after the injuries to Tim Ambrose, Peter McKay and Jamie Atkinson, fell in the same Tim Groenewald over, driving the ball straight at the bowler. Groenewald claimed his fourth wicket when Keith Barker followed one outside off stump.
With Barker's departure, Warwickshire were 148 for 6 but Derbyshire could not find a way to dislodge Woakes, who remained clear-headed and calm and did not make a serious error until he went to pull Footitt on 83 and sent the ball very high into the air off the top edge. He had jogged through to the bowler's end by the time the ball came down, expecting to continue back to the pavilion. Footitt appeared to watch it all the way, so it was a surprise that he dropped it, so much that you suspect the proximity of Woakes must have put him off, although there was no question of obstruction.
Woakes reacted by going into his shell a little, although by this time Derbyshire had the new ball. Maurice Chambers, who has a career average of 5.80, was doggedly resistant at the other end, and by the time Woakes completed the seventh first-class century of his career, the fast bowler had batted for more than 90 minutes for his nine not out.