Warks v Middlesex, Div 1, Edgbaston, 3rd day May 6, 2014

Depleted Warwickshire thrash favourites


Warwickshire 462 (Ambrose 167, Patel 105, Wright 52, Hain 42, Roland-Jones 3-66) beat Middlesex 167 (Finn 37*, Rogers 34, Wright 4-56) and 248 (Rogers 82, Robson 68, Patel 4-78) by an innings and 47 runs

To jump to the top of the Division One table might be considered a decent achievement in any circumstances. But to do so with an innings victory over the Championship favourites despite going into the game with a team lacking 10 players should be considered a clear indication that Warwickshire have the strength in depth to sustain a strong challenge for the title this year.

Warwickshire, who have now won two games in succession, were missing eight men with international experience (Boyd Rankin, Ian Bell, Jonathan Trott, Chris Woakes, Rikki Clarke, William Porterfield, Freddie Coleman and Jim Troughton) from this side as well as two others (Recordo Gordon and Tom Milnes) who might well have been considered first choice alternatives had they been fit. They also lost Oliver Hannon-Dalby with a side strain on the first day.

But the acquisition of Richard Jones - a swing bowler of sharp pace - from Worcestershire in the close-season has already borne fruit. He might never develop into the consistent bowler that Worcestershire required but he has the precious ability to take wickets - a career strike-rate of a wicket every 44.4 balls at this level is exceptional - and here added a dimension to an already impressive attack by gaining enough reverse swing to render the ball dangerous throughout its life span.

Not every wicket came from a fine ball - John Simpson slapped a long-hop to cover - but it was Jones who claimed the key wicket of Sam Robson, beaten by a late swinging yorker as he played across a straight one and Jones who dismissed Denly, prodding half forward, to another that swung late. The pitch remained good but, as Dougie Brown, the Warwickshire director of cricket said afterwards "having swing bowlers takes the pitch out of the equation".

Jeetan Patel, as ever, also contributed. His four wickets here included that of Chris Rogers, who never settled as well as Robson and fell attempting a sweep, as well as two wickets in two balls to wrap up victory just after Warwickshire had claimed the extra half-hour. It was a reminder of Patel's value as overseas player and the importance of his decision to decline an invitation to tour the Caribbean with the New Zealand squad in order to concentrate on his Warwickshire career. A contract extension beckons.

"That was a tough decision," Patel said afterwards. "I've always said that playing Test cricket was the be-all and end-all for me, but I've other interests now. My family is the most important thing. For them to be safe and happy is most important.

"Would I have played in the Caribbean? Maybe. Maybe I would have earned a one-year central contract. But I have to look further ahead than that and I could have sat on the sidelines and wasted an opportunity to cement my position here. And I love it at Warwickshire. Being a Bear is special."

Well though Warwickshire bowled, this was another painfully weak performance from the Middlesex batsmen. On the same surface where Warwickshire's No. 8 had thumped a century the previous day, Middlesex conspired to lose their last nine wickets for 93 runs. It was a surface called "benign" by Middlesex coach Richard Scott the previous evening and a surface of which any professional batsman might dream.

But there is a recklessness within this Middlesex middle-order that cannot always be masked by the excellence of Rogers and Robson. While the pair again made batting appear a straightforward business in adding 149 for the second wicket, this side is as brittle as egg shell: crack the top and the middle is soft and vulnerable. It was, no doubt, the point made by batting coach Mark Ramprakash in the long team meeting that followed the defeat.

The batting collapse is hardly a new phenomenon for Middlesex. In the first innings here they lost eight wickets for 32, in the previous game at Lord's they were bowled out for 123 in their first innings and against Sussex they were dismissed for 105 and 154.

The long-term form of some of the middle-order underlines the sense that this is not a one-off. Dawid Malan, whose dismissal here attempting an aggressive pull with half-an-hour of the day remaining and the second new ball just a few overs old might be considered a nadir, has made two Championship half-centuries in 26 innings since the start of 2013 and has a top-score of 61. Joe Denly's form - he has a top score of 77 in 31 innings over the same period - is little better.

"This is not quite good enough," Rogers said afterwards. "We've got to get better. Everyone is trying but to lose 8-30 on this pitch, a pitch with no demons, well, it's unforgivable. There are no quick fixes but we do have to fix this."

He did praise Warwickshire's opening pair, though, labelling Keith Barker and Chris Wright "excellent bowlers" with "good skills" and predicted a "decent future" for them.

James Whitaker, the national selector, was among the spectators - he sat for a while with Andy Flower - and also made a point of enquiring about Wright's form.

International calls will continue to dig deep into the Warwickshire squad. But they hope to have Bell, Woakes et al. back for the game at Yorkshire which already looks as if it could have a huge bearing on the title. And with the likes of Jones and Sam Hain, who both made huge impacts on debut in this game, in support, they seem to have the depth to cope with the demands they are sure to face.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on May 7, 2014, 20:37 GMT

    Great to see our strength in depth coping so well with being tested, but as a Bear i hope it is not quite as sorely tested as it was last season, we don't need to be down to the "bare bones" again!

  • Dummy4 on May 7, 2014, 16:29 GMT

    Strangely enough, Middlesex's impressive home victories over Notts and Yorks did see a ton of money go on them and elevate them to championship favourites before this match.In reality as well as they have performed on occassions, the overall view is that the deficiencies far outweigh the advantages.Too many with ability have underperformed for too long and improvement in the middle order, the support bowling and the spin department looks unlikely given the obvious lack of confidence constantly displayed.Another worrying feature is the captaincy question, with Rogers in charge more by default than anything else.A tendency to let the game drift, appear less than inspiring in the field has been evident in all games and heads have dropped and things gone quiet all to quickly.Without strong leadership success will not be achieved.

  • Dummy4 on May 7, 2014, 14:31 GMT

    "beaten by a late swinging yorker as he played across a straight one" I'd have thought the ball is either swinging or going straight.

  • Dummy4 on May 7, 2014, 12:17 GMT

    I was at Edgbaston yesterday and at all four days of the Notts and Yorkshire games at Lord's and there is no way that Middlesex have ever been favourites for this year's title. No Middlesex fan that I know, many of whom were also at the crushing Sussex defeat, considers them so. The batting is far too weak, shortly to get weaker when Robson opens for England, and the bowling too erratic and dependant on Finn. Mid-table beckons, with Yorkshire probably the title favourites.

  • Gareth on May 7, 2014, 9:44 GMT

    I've noticed this 'Middlesex favourites' comment a couple of times on Cricinfo recently, and am as baffled as Harvey and CricketingStargazer are as to where it has come from.

    Middlesex were a general 6/1 for the County Championship before this match (the shortest price they have been all season). This made them 4th favourites for the title (behind Yorkshire, Sussex, Warwickshire) before this match.

  • Mark on May 7, 2014, 8:46 GMT

    @jackiethepen Warwickshire were impressive, even if Middlesex were in the Dr Jekyll half of their cycle having given Yorkshire a taste of Mr Hyde. However, there is some truth in the accusation that the batting had misread the situation against Lancashire. With defeat out of the question and the probability that bad light would intervene, the batsmen needed to keep the scoreboard ticking over.

    There was a spell of three overs after a couple of wickets fell in the 70s when only a couple of runs came and that is where the chase lost momentum. It was a pity because it was an amazing performance to get so close having lost so much time and Warwickshire really did deserve the win.

  • Jackie on May 7, 2014, 8:13 GMT

    Inside Hedge is one of those really annoying fans who on the one hand talk about not reading the weather conditions and on the other of completely ignoring the pitch conditions in 'this t20 age'. How can you not score at 4-5 an over approx over 30 overs? Because you are in a completely different game than t20? Or 40 over cricket? Warwickshire 'should' have beaten Lancashire? They lost a WHOLE DAY to rain and on the final day were on and off for rain and bad light. Finally the new laws of bad light removed the batsmen from the end of the game when they were on target. But Warwickshire gained enormous motivation and drive from that game which they took into the next. Their victory against Notts was a stunner on a terrible pitch. The team that held their nerve won that game. Their morale was sky high afterwards and they have taken that momentum further. They are now top. What are you moaning about? Oh yes Middlesex handed them the game!! No credit to the Bears then?

  • Dummy4 on May 7, 2014, 8:13 GMT

    "...to do so with an innings victory over the Championship favourites despite going into the game with a team lacking 10 players..."

    One man of Warwickshire beat eleven men of Middlesex? That certainly is impressive.

  • Mark on May 7, 2014, 5:32 GMT

    No, Middlesex are not favourites. That was an over-reaction to the Yorkshire game. The indications that they are a lower mid-table side are still there. Relegation should not be in the equation, but the inconsistency manifested in points hauls of 1, 23, 19 & 2 in their first four games will rule out a title run unless rectified. With Sam Robson increasingly likely to miss half the season, Middlesex are likely to struggle for starts.

    That said, no one has made a particularly good start and any side down to 7th is still in the title race with a quarter of the season good.

  • Sanjay on May 7, 2014, 3:52 GMT

    George, I disagree on several points you make.

    No way were R. Gordon and Tom Milnes 1st choice alternatives. Both Coleman and Sam Hain weren't going to play in the same game, not this early in the season with everything to play for. Rankin's fitness record is so poor that you can take it for granted that he'll miss the start of the season. That's why I was shocked at his inclusion in the winter Ashes party. Hannon-Dalby is another injury prone bowler, no surprises he's down for the count.

    Warwicks should have beaten Lancashire 2 games ago. They repeated the same mistakes that were made against Somerset last season. A complete inability to read obvious weather conditions, and a shocking ineptitude in quick scoring prevented what should have been comfortable victories. On both occasions, Chopra was the culprit with pedestrian batting. In this T20 age, how can you not score at 4-5 an over over approx 30 overs?

    Finally, the pitches at Edgbaston are too dull, Middx were too generous.

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