Warwickshire v Yorkshire, Specsavers Championship Div One, Edgbaston, 2nd day April 15, 2017

Handscomb and Bresnan add to early-season worries for Warwickshire


Yorkshire 295 for 6 (Handscomb 75, Bresnan 61) lead Warwickshire 178 (Barker 50, Coad 5-52) by 117 runs

Like turning to the person next to you at a wedding and remarking 'these things only end in divorce or death' it seems untimely to predict Warwickshire's fate this season.

But, as they failed to secure a batting bonus point for the second game in succession and then conceded what may well prove to be a match-defining first innings deficit for the second game in succession, it was hard not to look at them as a vulture sizes up a sickly wildebeest. Suffice to say, they have earned themselves the tag of relegation favourites.

Yes, it is mid-April. Yes, there's a lot of cricket to play and yes, they may salvage something from this game with some better second-innings batting and some rain. But, going into this match, they had won one and lost four of their previous eight Championship matches and they look overly reliant upon a few key performers - notably Keith Barker and Jonathan Trott at this time of year - who are not gaining the support they might expect from colleagues.

It is a talented team, certainly, but it is a team in decline, a team with holes and a team lacking the spark of youth in its bowling in particular. And in a tough division where 25% of the sides will be relegated this season, those are weaknesses that will have those vultures licking their lips.

There are birds coming home to roost at Edgbaston. The failure to develop players in the quantity or quality required of a big club is one key factor - Chris Woakes is the last capped player at the club to emerge through the youth system and he made his debut a decade ago - but so is the failure to retain and recruit.

Last year's fall-out with Varun Chopra, which looks more damaging by the week, might be compared to the failure to retain Moeen Ali a decade or so earlier, while the decision to spend relatively heavily on a bowler - Olly Stone - who had just sustained what may well prove to be a career-defining injury is puzzling. Ashley Giles has returned to the club to find half his squad look like the cast of Cocoon and half the cast of Kindergarten Cop.

Given time - and that might be an issue at a club that has become accustomed to success; Dougie Brown was sacked last year despite securing the Royal London Cup - Giles is the ideal man to sort things out. But he has an enormous job on his hands. It's not just about improving the scouting from the leagues, the schools and surrounding non-first-class counties. It's not just about improving the development process so that talent is better exploited and encouraged. And it's not just about intelligent recruitment from other counties.

Most of all, it's about changing the culture of a club that can, at times, be held back by a hubris that fools itself into thinking it doesn't need to change. Really, for a club this size to field a team containing one or two home-grown players (Ian Bell and Sam Hain) is a crushing indictment of the failure of their development system irrespective of the absence of Woakes at the IPL.

They don't have to look far to see how these things can work. The Yorkshire side here, despite missing four Yorkshire-born Test players (Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow, Ryan Sidebottom and Liam Plunkett) through injury or ECB policy, still contains eight home-grown players. While Yorkshire's catchment area contains more cricket clubs than Warwickshire's, their ability to produce England players while continuing to challenge in trophies is a testament to a club that, in cricketing terms at least, has been exemplary in recent times.

The emergence of Ben Coad, who bowled Chris Wright early on the second morning to claim his second five-for in two Championship games this season, is just the latest example.

Yorkshire might feel they lacked just a bit of ruthlessness here. Having allowed (maybe 'allowed' is the wrong word; Barker batted very well for his second half-century in successive games) Warwickshire's final three wickets to add more than 100 runs, they perhaps failed to gain the first innings total they might have done.

Several times it appeared they had the opportunity to put this game beyond Warwickshire with an overwhelming lead, but several times they lost wickets to shots they may consider a bit loose. Alex Lees, for example, faced 24 deliveries before he scored and 30 before striking his first boundary. But, having done the hard work, he attempted a series of lavish drives and then prodded, without foot movement, at one outside off stump and edged to the cordon.

Peter Handscomb's dismissal was more of a surprise. He looked terrific in making 75. After a testing beginning against Barker - his habit of playing as far back as a batsman can play without standing behind the keeper negated the swing - he feasted against the support bowling and a tiring Barker. It came as some surprise when Wright, belatedly given a second spell, induced an inside edge as Handscomb aimed a somewhat footless drive at one that swung in a little.

While Gary Ballance, shaping to play to leg, edged one outside off stump, Jack Leaning was brilliantly caught at short-leg off the glove by a diving Hain and Adam Lyth was earlier caught down the leg side as he attempted to glance a short one, Yorkshire were - as so often - grateful to their middle-order.

Tim Bresnan and Adil Rashid both punished a tiring attack in the final session, taking the lead beyond 100 and giving their side hope of at least three and perhaps four batting bonus points.

Barker, on whose broad shoulders so much rests for Warwickshire, eventually defeated Bresnan with a characteristic inswinger with the second new ball - umpire Nigel Cowley adjudged that, although Bresnan had hit the ball, it had brushed his pad first; replays suggested it was an outstanding bit of umpiring - but with Rashid, Andrew Hodd and David Willey still to account for, Yorkshire will have realistic hopes of extending their lead on day three.

Warwickshire didn't bowl badly by any means. Just as they didn't bat especially badly. They just found they lacked the pace to gather as much from the pitch as Yorkshire's bowlers and the consistency to build much pressure. They have the talent, the experience and the time to turn things around, but if they are expecting any easy games this year, they are in for a rude awakening. This division is relentless and tough and stacked with talented players of ambition. And that's just the way it should be.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • nichol9773424 on April 21, 2017, 1:32 GMT

    Er, BOROMAT, Middlesbrough is in North Yorkshire. Teeside was scrapped in '74 when eaten by Cleveland which in turn was returned to us within North Yorkshire in 1996. I have also spent many hours watching Yorkshire at Acklam Park in Middlesbrough, though it was a while ago.

  • Matt on April 16, 2017, 20:30 GMT

    Middlesbrough is not in Yorkshire it's in Teesside and we support Durham.

  • walker3339289 on April 16, 2017, 19:10 GMT

    Great day again Yorkshire! And well done Ben Coad - what a cracking start to your season. I think his hard work over the past 2/3 years is now paying off for him and he will be setting a problem for the selectors when all the powerful bowling squad is fully fit again. I was at HQ for the pipe opener against Hampshire and this young man is definitely one to watch fo the future - and fast!

  • geoffs8103821 on April 16, 2017, 19:04 GMT

    I wish other than Woakes we had some England players hears dreaming

  • cricfan80792677 on April 16, 2017, 18:13 GMT

    Surely this coad fella is going to get some kind of england call? Whether its lions or full honours. Wow!

  • geoffs8103821 on April 16, 2017, 18:08 GMT

    Congratulations Yorkshire, a real team effort a team that promotes from within good luck for the season. Lets hope Strauss allows your players to play when available.

  • lunnpb0253287 on April 16, 2017, 17:12 GMT

    The ECB have a policy of "managing" the test team & controlling how much cricket they play. Witness here how Root & Bairstow were not allowed to turn out for Yorkshire. With this in mind explain Woakes playing an intense competition like the IPL, given the conditions it must take more out of a player than county cricket.

  • geoffs8103821 on April 16, 2017, 15:49 GMT

    Insidehedge with due respect nobody is expecting Warwickshire to play all their games in one place. Just spread it around the county like they always used to. Plus surely 4thousand packed into an outground is far more atmospheric as when Lancashire Played their games in Blackpool Liverpool etc the year they won the championship whilst old Trafford was renovated. Warwickshire Played the year before in 2013 at Rugby also 4 thousand in the ground. So let's get real here Edgbaston is a fine ground and can hold most game's granted its not Warwickshires original ground as the county was formed in Coventry and played their untill Edgbaston field as it was acquired. Birmingham if you like it or not is not in Warwickshire but in the west midlands I feel it's short sighted to think money is the be all and end all spreading the game will anable fan's to flock back. As in the ashes 2005 when everyone had the chance to watch it.

  • Sanjay on April 16, 2017, 15:06 GMT

    @cricfan44810102 : With all due respect, are you expecting Warwks to play most of their games in Rugby? So what if 4K showed up, that's only because the team played there after a long time. Let's get real here, the home is Edgbaston, always has been and always will be. As @FAIRFAX53 points out, Bham is in the county, smack in the middle of it as far as I'm concerned.

    And yes, making money is rather important.

  • geoffs8103821 on April 16, 2017, 14:01 GMT

    Warwickshire 5 runs for 3 wickets had enough now making the journey back to Coventry if they don't get experienced openers, aligned with an experienced coach and captain they will be cut adrift at the bottom of the table soon enough.

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