Ambrose and Clarke build on solid foundation
Lancashire 286 and 84 for 2 lead Warwickshire 322 (Ambrose 62, Porterfield 57, Clarke 56) by 48 runs
Building an innings is as much a collective enterprise as an individual skill. As Warwickshire's lower middle order and tail played with enterprise and elan to take their side past Lancashire's total early on the third afternoon of this game, perhaps few in the Edgbaston crowd reckoned that William Porterfield's self-denying vigil the previous day had very much to do with their side's prosperity. The late belligerence shown by the visiting openers seemed to reinforce the anomalous nature of Porterfield's batting.
After all, the opener had perished in the fifth over of the morning, cutting Tom Smith to gully after adding only six to his overnight score. Subsequently Tim Ambrose and Rikki Clarke had made fifties in less than half the time taken by Porterfield in an innings which, had it been set to music, might have been entitled Variations on a Theme of Defence.
Surely Ambrose and Clarke's aggression had exposed the negativity of Porterfield's approach, the argument ran, conveniently overlooking the fact that Warwickshire's opener had been batting, for the most part, with Sam Hain, who was playing his third first-class innings, and Laurie Evans and Ateeq Javid, whose Championship averages this season are not a source of pride to their loved ones.
Slow, Porterfield certainly was. Stuck in a rut? Yes, that as well. Indeed, his entire 198-ball innings was a 284-minute rut. But his effort gave later batsmen a base from which they could play with the freedom characteristic of their own styles and they did this with considerable success against a faltering Lancashire attack suddenly presented with a different set of problems.
Ambrose was the first to unveil his attacking strokes, cover-driving Kabir Ali for a boundary and reaching his half-century in 84 balls with a cut off Glen Chapple. As the tempo increased, so the nature of the contest changed, and the crowd was further encouraged by the news that both Jim Troughton and Jonathan Trott were playing for Warwickshire's second team at Coventry.
Rather than facilitating a breakthrough, the new ball disappeared to all parts, as new balls sometimes do when batsmen screw their courage to the sticking place. At lunch Warwickshire were 234 for 5 and the spectators were eager for more of the same, thank you very much.
In this hope they were disappointed. Ambrose was lbw was playing all around a swinging delivery from Kyle Hogg and Clarke followed five overs later, bowled round his legs when attempting to sweep Simon Kerrigan.
Jeetan Patel could only swipe Hogg across the line to Alex Davies at midwicket and after Kerrigan had cleaned up Chris Wright, it needed the vaudevillian entertainment of a last wicket stand between Keith Barker and Boyd Rankin to extend the home side's lead to 36. When Smith bowled Rankin for 12, Barker was left unbeaten on 44, having reinforced his reputation as one of the circuit's most useful players.
For most counties in most conditions, wiping out such a modest first-innings lead is a task of little difficulty. But it was still heartening for the oft-tormented visiting supporters to see Paul Horton and Davies do the job in just four overs with Davies glancing Barker for four and then hooking him dextrously for six over one of Edgbaston's longer boundaries. Indeed, aided by the inaccuracy of Varun Chopra's seamers - Patel was on at the City End in the seventh over - Lancashire's openers had added a run-a-ball 54 at tea.
Some reports indicated that Edgbaston was then about to suffer the sort of rain last seen when visited on the sinful in Leviticus. However, while the restart was delayed for 90 minutes, the early evening saw a further 16 overs' play, more than enough time for Colonel and Mrs Cockup to pay one of their visits to a Red Rose innings. Instead, though, Davies and Horton extended their partnership to 71, Lancashire's highest first-wicket stand of the season, before Davies was lbw for 30 playing no shot to Patel. Horton was then caught behind for 42 in the penultimate over of the day when playing some way from his body to a good ball from Rankin.
Lancashire's lead is, therefore, 48 and Patel is getting plenty of turn from the City End. We could yet be set for a dramatic dénouement, although that is unlikely to be achieved by way of the visitors declaring. Rumour has it that the last Lancashire skipper to gamble was playing baccarat with Ian Fleming.