Law proves a class above
Lancashire 317 (Law 121, Sutcliffe 69, Streak 3-37) lead Warwickshire 173 (Frost 63, Cork 6-53) by 144 runs
Sometimes a single innings stands out above anything else in a match. Not for the first time in a run-filled career, Stuart Law reached that level at Edgbaston as Lancashire built a match-winning lead of 144 in conditions that were still far from cakewalk for the batsmen. He and Iain Sutcliffe added almost as many as the whole Warwickshire line-up managed together - their stand of 165 could be the defining period of this match.
There was less help for the seamers than on the opening day; when the sun shines at Edgbaston batsmen tend to prosper. However, it had by no means turned into a featherbed and an early wicket apiece for Dougie Brown and Heath Streak threatened another batting collapse. The ball that scooted through low to trap Brad Hodge would certainly have raised the odd eyebrow.
But Law belied the conditions and whenever he was on strike it was as though an entirely different game was being played. He stamped his authority early with a succession of sweetly timed straight drives, but the sign of his class came with a delicate late cut off Lee Daggett that raced down to third man. The shot was played with complete confidence and control and Law was on his way.
With the ball still offering to seam Law ensured he got a large stride down the pitch to cover any movement while still being in a position to rock back if the bowler dropped short. The Warwickshire attack offered plenty of both lengths, although erred on the side off too full, especially the young pair of Daggett and James Anyon. Daggett had found the perfect length on Saturday when Warwickshire bowled out Durham, but here he strived too hard rather than letting the pitch help him.
The pace of scoring in this match has never threatened to beyond near three-an-over, so the fact Law's century came off 151 balls showed how dominant he was. In contrast Sutcliffe crept along but that should not detract at all from an innings that was equally vital to Lancashire's cause. He performed the anchor role that none of the Warwickshire top order could manage. What will have frustrated him, however, would be the manner of his dismissal when he edged a drive off Jim Troughton's first ball, which was sharply taken to slip's right.
Sutcliffe's wicket sparked a mini-collapse as Warwickshire hauled themselves back into contention through Troughton and Moeen Ali, who ended Law's outstanding innings with a delivery that turned behind his legs and hit legstump. It was due reward for Ali, and a memorable maiden first-class wicket, who bowled with encouraging flight and he soon added Dominic Cork via a soft edge to slip.
However, Lancashire have always prided themselves on a long batting line-up. This match it is not quite as strong without Glen Chapple, but Kyle Hogg took the chance to display his prowess. Since being tipped for higher honours at the same time that James Anderson was selected in 2003, Hogg has regressed rather alarmingly and hasn't been able to gain a regular spot in the first team. Dougie Brown will be wishing he wasn't in this side.
In the first over with the second new ball, Hogg launched Brown straight into the pavilion, then in his next over dispatched three fours in four balls in a calculated assault that significantly changed the balance of power. The spinners had given Heath Streak a modicum of control so taking the new ball was a risky decision and the first 10 overs with it brought 56 runs.
When Hogg held out to deep square-leg, Tom Smith contributed more useful runs with the last three wickets putting on 100. The Warwickshire attack stuck to their task all day, but couldn't quite find the talisman that Lancashire had in Cork yesterday. The tail-end efforts have shown that batting certainly is possible and the home side can take heart from that. But they'll need more than some lower-order defiance to turn this match around; someone will have to play an innings out of Law book.
Andrew McGlashan is editorial assistant of Cricinfo