Barker late blast makes it Bears' day
Warwickshire 417 for 7 (Westwood 88, Barker 86*, Onions 4-74) v Durham
Cricket has a whimsical gift for misdirection. On a day when many spectators were concerned to see how Jonathan Trott would perform on his return to the county circuit, it was the batting of Ian Westwood and Keith Barker, his Warwickshire colleagues, which eventually commanded more attention than Trott's innings of 42.
Close followers of the domestic game might greet this development with nothing more than a knowing smile. Westwood has been in excellent form this season. His 88 on the first day of this match against Durham took his Championship aggregate for 2015 to 439 runs in seven innings. When he was bowled three overs before tea by a fine ball from Graham Onions which moved off the seam, the compact left-hander with an enviable gift for clipping the ball away on the leg side had provided his side with the foundation upon which their very substantial total was built.
So well had Westwood been batting that his dismissal, after a knock which included 14 fours and a six into the Hollies Stand, came as rather a shock. It also occurred in the middle of a difficult period in Warwickshire's innings, one in which they also lost Laurie Evans, who had been caught behind for 45 by Phil Mustard in Onions's previous over when playing the loosest of cuts at a ball unsuitable for the stroke.
And when Tim Ambrose was so discomfited by the extra bounce extracted by John Hastings that he gave Mustard his third catch a couple of overs after tea, Varun Chopra's team were 227 for 6 and in danger of wasting the advantage gained when their captain had won the toss. This did not happen, though. On the contrary, some very positive batting by Rikki Clarke and Barker saw 103 runs added in 68 minutes prior to the taking of the second new ball, 28 of those runs coming in consecutive overs from the Pavilion End bowled by Paul Coughlin and Scott Borthwick.
Chris Rushworth, as is his skill these days, restored a little control to Durham's attack and had Clarke lbw for 36 in the 81st over. The ball may have struck the allrounder a little high on the pad and Barker certainly did all he could to avoid a similar fate during the remainder of the evening session. Dropped by Paul Collingwood at slip and Calum MacLeod in the gully off successive balls from Hastings when only 16, Barker used his bat to very good effect and he goes into the second day on 85 not out and with a fifth first-class century beckoning.
At the other end Jeetan Patel hit Rushworth for a straight six, straight drove Hastings and Coughlin and reached his 46-ball fifty off the last ball of the day. Durham's bowlers conceded 199 runs off 32 overs in the final session.
But what of Trott? Only 13 days after he had announced his retirement from Test cricket and 16 after the vicious short-pitched ball from Shannon Gabriel which had made that decision something of a relief for his many friends and supporters, the Warwickshire No. 3 batted in a style both familiar and reassuring during his 90-minute innings
Greeted by a warm ovation when he came to the wicket with his side on 18 for 2 after Onions and Rushworth had removed Chopra and William Porterfield, Trott clipped his first ball for four and quickly settled into a recognisable rhythm. This was characterised by frequent marking of the crease, strolls to square leg, and decisive strokes, whether in defence or attack. Renowned as something of an enforcer in the England team, Trott helped Westwood deal with the new ball and one can foresee a few seasons in which he will take care of such business for Warwickshire. Further boundaries followed off Coughlin and Hastings but so did sensible decisions to leave the ball alone.
Was Trott tested quite as he had been in Barbados? He was not. Was his technique given a thorough examination by a Division One attack? That did happen and Trott coped with it all well. It was a something of a surprise when he was leg before to Onions's third ball after lunch.
"Trotty's been fine," said Dougie Brown, Warwickshire's Director of Cricket. "This is an environment that he knows and one that he trusts. He responds really well to it and we are delighted to have him back. He looked to be in good order on what was quite a tricky pitch and I thought he played really well. There'll be a number of bowlers round the country that would prefer it if he was still playing international cricket. He's a rock in our batting order."