Ambrose wins enthralling battle
Warwickshire 343 (Woakes 91, Wright 65, Adams 4-67, Siddle 4-91) and 289 for 7 (Ambrose 82, Hain 63, Patel 3-36) beat Nottinghamshire 406 (Hales 183, Jaques 77, Wessels 53) and 225 (Jaques 79, Woakes 5-35) by three wickets
If Warwickshire go on to win the County Championship title this year, they will surely look back on this match as the turning point of their campaign.
Victory over Nottinghamshire pushes them up to third in the Division One table. While Nottinghamshire are 23 points above them, Warwickshire have a game in hand and a slightly easier run-in. Defeat would have left them 55 points behind and effectively concerned only with avoiding relegation.
Several times in this match, it looked as if they were heading for a thrashing. Shortly before the close on the first day, Nottinghamshire were 396 for 5 and heading for a total of around 500 and then, on the second day, Warwickshire slipped to 125 for 5. A huge first-innings deficit seemed inevitable.
But partly due to their determined fight back and partly due to some complacent cricket from Nottinghamshire, they dragged themselves back into the match and the title race.
They had three heroes on the final day. Firstly Chris Wright, the nightwatchman whose first-innings half-century helped turn this game, contributed another 45 runs to draw the sting from the Nottinghamshire attack, before Sam Hain, an 18-year-old with a golden future, and Tim Ambrose, one of the most unsung cricketers in the county game, carved out a stand of 128 for the fifth-wicket to break the back of this run chase. Ambrose, with an unbeaten 82, was there at the end to make sure of the victory.
It will be little consolation to Nottinghamshire in the short-term that they were involved in a marvellous, high-quality game of cricket on a fine pitch that provided encouragement to good players. Instead, they will know that they have squandered a fantastic opportunity to establish a season-defining lead in the table.
"We've missed a massive opportunity," Mick Newell, the Nottinghamshire director of cricket admitted. "We could have taken a big lead and put a really big gap between us and Warwickshire.
"We bowled rubbish to Chris Wright. He made batting look comfortable, but that was largely due to our poor bowling.
"Wright's partnership with Chris Woakes in the first innings was crucial, too. We wouldn't have enforced the follow-on, but we should have had a much larger lead."
The final day could hardly have started better for Nottinghamshire. Jonathan Trott departed in the first over, caught at short-leg fending a bouncer from Peter Siddle.
For Trott, and Warwickshire, it was the nightmare scenario. It was only the second ball he faced in the day - the first had also been a bouncer - and the manner of his dismissal, after his troubles in Australia, will do nothing to quell the doubts that have dogged him since. It might be forgotten, most of all by him, how well he played a hostile spell on the third evening.
Yet the wicket may have contributed to Nottinghamshire's downfall. It appeared to suck them into a glut of short-pitched bowling which allowed the Warwickshire batsmen to counterattack. Wright crunched three successive fours off the weary-looking Andre Adams and, after bowling 14 of the first 33 overs, Siddle lost just a bit of bite.
Though Samit Patel precipitated a late stumble - Warwickshire lost 3 for 6 at one stage and still required 55 more when their eighth-wicket pair came together - Ambrose held his nerve and Nottinghamshire missed the specialist spinner that might have exploited this dry, fourth-day surface.
"We were crying out for Gary Keedy to bowl in tandem with Samit," Newell admitted. "But equally we wanted to bowl first if we won the toss. It's very difficult to get that balance right."
Nottinghamshire did have chances, even on the final day. Early in his innings, Hain enjoyed two moments of fortune against Siddle. Once he was struck on the body; another time he popped the ball inches short of short-leg.
Then, we he had 18, he prodded forward to one from Patel that left him and edged to first slip. Riki Wessels was unable to cling on to the chance, though, and Hain went on to compile an increasingly classy half-century. Had the chance been taken, Warwickshire would have been 148 for 5.
Ambrose was nerveless, though. With Adams way below his best and Harry Gurney unable to sustain the pressure applied by the accurate Patel, Siddle and the admirable Luke Fletcher were forced to shoulder the burden and, as they tired, the run-scoring opportunities began to flow. Ambrose, determined in defence, latched on to anything short with his favoured cut shot and, for the second time in the match, the Nottinghamshire fielding flagged under pressure.
"That was a great advert for domestic cricket," Dougie Brown, the Warwickshire director of cricket said afterwards. "Division One is as strong as I can remember it, with lots of good players getting an opportunity to show what they can do.
"We're right back in the race now. We bowled as badly as I've ever seen us bowl in the first innings and, at that point, there was only one winner. But Chris Woakes was outstanding. He is a natural leader and an impressive bloke. And Nottinghamshire relinquished a position of strength."
Trott, meanwhile, will sit out Thursday's T20 match against Northamptonshire. Not only are his knees causing him some discomfort, but he has yet to practise white ball skills in the nets. He will return to the side for the Championship game against Durham. "A Warwickshire side with Jonathan Trott in it is a stronger side," Brown said.
Warwickshire are also awaiting news of their captain, Jim Troughton. He has experienced more pain in his back since returning to the first team after surgery and saw a specialist on Wednesday. With his team back among the six actively involved in the Championship race, the club dearly needs his leadership and batting.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo