Porterfield's interminable day
Warwickshire 130 for 4 (Porterfield 51*) trail Lancashire 286 (Davies 59, Smith 50, Patel 4-64) by 156 runs
Supporters of T20 who also care about the broader welfare of the game sometimes argue that spectators at short-form cricket will eventually also watch County Championship games and Test matches. It would be interesting to know how many people have already graduated to the longer formats because, on the evidence available from Warwickshire's game against Lancashire at Edgbaston, the process may take quite a time.
Less than 72 hours previously both these counties had played NatWest Blast matches. Lancashire's game against Yorkshire will go down as one of best of the summer. In 39.3 overs it saw an aggregate of 379 runs scored. By contrast, in the first innings of their Division One encounter, Warwickshire replied to Lancashire's 286 by making 130 for 4 at the close of the second day. It took them 71 overs and no automatic disparagement is implied by the use of that statistic.
Warwickshire's resistance was led by William Porterfield, who was 51 not out at stumps, having spent 258 minutes reaching his half-century in 177 balls. Already with a hundred and a couple of fifties to his name in this campaign, Porterfield opted for a method for which the term "safety first" scarcely does justice.
At times, he made Nick Compton at his most introspective seem like a Goweresque cavalier. Yet apart from ironic cheers when the team's hundred came up in the 61st over, there was little vocal criticism of the home side's batsmen. Instead, the Birmingham crowd watched it all with stoic patience.
Indeed, late in the day it seemed that the spectators had become as immovable as Porterfield himself. In the distance the towers of the city shone with self-confidence and pulsed with profit; closer to hand children returned home to Eastwood Road and Willows Crescent filled with big stories about little things. Back at the cricket, Porterfield blocked on.
The truth was that on a very slow pitch and pitted against an accurate Lancashire attack which has spent its season defending inadequate totals, Varun Chopra's batsmen built their innings with the air of sculptors who know that one false tap with the chisel will destroy the work. Indeed, such was the fate of Laurie Evans, who had put on 31 in 17 overs with Porterfield before he edged a rash cut to Paul Horton at slip.
That dismissal left Warwickshire on 62 for 3, the home side having already lost skipper Chopra, who edged Kabir Ali to Andrea Agathangelou at second slip in the eighth over of the innings, and Ateeq Javid, who played across a ball of good length from Glen Chapple when he had made seven in 49 balls.
The tempo of the innings had already been set when Javid departed. Warwickshire scored a mere eight runs from the 16 overs bowled by Ali, Chapple and Tom Smith from the Pavilion End in the second session. The lightest moment of the afternoon arrived when the Edgbaston scorer and PA announcer Mel Smith announced that Greg Chapple was coming on to bowl. Lancashire's skipper was not amused; double teapot was not in it.
The home side's most productive partnership of the day was between Porterfield and Sam Hain, who added 51 in 25 overs before Hain misjudged a straight delivery from Smith and was lbw for 22, six overs before the close.
Tim Ambrose, 12 not out off 19 balls, if you please, made certain that his team will go into the third day with the game more or less evenly poised. However, the new ball is only nine overs away.
A further reason for the remarkable self-denial of the home batsmen was that Lancashire had eventually made a decent enough fist of their first innings, adding 98 runs to their overnight total in 24.1 overs to bring them two batting bonus points.
Smith became his county's highest run-scorer in this season's Championship - he is already Lancashire's leading wicket-taker - and made his fifth first-class fifty of the season before immediately chopping Boyd Rankin on to his stumps.
Chapple's 33, most of them made in the opening overs of the morning, and then an enterprising 25 from Ali late in the session increased Lancashire total to a size for which their travelling supporters would have settled when they came down to breakfast. For Warwickshire, Boyd Rankin claimed a couple of deserved wickets and Jeetan Patel completed fine figures of 4 for 64 from 32.3 overs when Ali lofted him to Hain at long on.