Woakes rescues Warks and redeems toss call
Warwickshire 372 for 9 (Woakes 121, Barker 113, Trott 68) v Nottinghamshire
The hamstring injury to Ian Bell meant that, for the first time, captaining Warwickshire rested on the shoulders on Chris Woakes, who may have felt it was weighing pretty heavily as he made his way out to the middle at 60 for 5. His decision not to bowl first on a mottled pitch came as a surprise to some, possibly including the Nottinghamshire captain.
The word from the home camp was that Chris Read would "probably" have chosen to bowl had the coin fallen in his favour but Woakes had his wish. If he might have been wondering where to look as wickets tumbled during the morning session, the first four with only 17 runs scored, he was happy to engage with anyone in the shadows of the evening as Warwickshire recovered to claim four batting points.
"It's a tricky one on the first day when the pitch is a little bit green but the sun's out," Woakes said. "After an hour maybe it looked like a bad decision but sitting here at 370 for 9 we would have taken that.
"I did feel a bit of responsibility to make some runs myself, although probably no more so than usual. And though it's my decision to bat, it is a collective thing, with Belly having an input as well, and the management of course."
His own contribution was 121, which must certainly have reinforced his perception that bat first was the appropriate tactic. It was his first century in a first-class match since March 2014 when, as it happens, he was captaining England Lions against Sri Lanka A in Colombo. Here is a man, it seems, who thrives on responsibility.
His stand for the eighth wicket with the perpetually underrated Keith Barker turned the day around. Barker, who bowled superbly against Somerset at Edgbaston last week, albeit on a pitch subsequently deemed suspect, batted with style and aplomb on this occasion, recording his sixth first-class hundred after a partnership with Woakes that added 167.
Yet Nottinghamshire will argue quite reasonably that it should never have happened and chastise themselves for allowing it to, having dropped Woakes twice when they were well on top.
The first was a difficult chance, to Michael Lumb at third slip when he was on 19, the second much more straightforward to Steven Mullaney at second slip when he had reached 29. At 117 for 7 or 129 for 7, would Warwickshire have found a way back? Perhaps, but after Rikki Clarke's dismissal, paying the price with a catch at long-off for a disdainful swing in the day's first over of spin, Barker would have had to make most of it with only Jeetan Patel and Chris Wright to come.
Brett Hutton was the bowler left cursing on both occasions, his frustration all the more keenly felt for the fact he had just taken an absolute blinder himself to inflict what had looked like a critical wound, diving to his right at third slip as Jonathan Trott edged a ball from Jackson Bird, throwing out one hand to pluck it out of the air when it seemed to have gone past the cordon and was heading for the boundary.
Trott, serenely authoritative, had made 68 as others feebly succumbed. He had just survived an appeal for leg-before by Bird, the ball striking him a painful blow on the inside of his right thigh, but otherwise had been untroubled. It seemed like a decisive moment.
Indeed, at that moment it appeared the story of the day would be about a triumphant return to Trent Bridge for Luke Fletcher, the crowd favourite, affectionately nicknamed the "Bulwell Bomber", the local lad, big of build and even bigger of heart but slipping down the pecking order among the young tyros emerging from the Nottinghamshire academy.
He had been shipped off to Derbyshire, in Division Two, on loan, but brought back after Jake Ball's call to Test duty left Nottinghamshire a little short. His figures down the road had been modest, to say the least, amounting to four wickets in four matches at 69 runs each. Yet here he was, back and relishing every moment, bowling straight and full, swinging it late. He bowled 11 overs off the reel, six of them maidens, and had 3 for 6 when he took his sweater and his appreciative fan club warmly applauded.
Fletcher would not have played, as it happens, but for Luke Wood, one of the aforementioned tyros, having a bad back, which made the story even more appealing.
By the close, though, he was 3 for 70, which was not so much fun. Even with the second new ball he was unable to summon his earlier powers as Barker, his eye well in, making good use of the short boundary on the Bridgford Road side (the Smith Cooper Stand, to acknowledge the sponsors), began to take liberties, hitting him for four boundaries in the same over.
"It was good to be back," Fletcher said "I enjoyed having the Radcliffe Road getting behind me. It was like old times. There is a lot of competition here now, which is good for the club, but I feel I've kind of taken my chance today and hopefully I can play the rest of my cricket here this season."
Woakes reached his hundred off 156 balls with 15 fours, Barker his off 113, completing it with a nonchalant pick up for six off Hutton to go with 14 boundaries. Bird, the best on a day in the end of not particularly distinguished Nottinghamshire bowling, eventually found a thin edge to dismiss Woakes before Barker helped one round the corner to give his wicket to Harry Gurney.