Warwickshire v Nottinghamshire, Edgbaston, 3rd day June 8, 2009

Futility reigns after the rain

Warwickshire 367 for 7 (Troughton 63*, Woakes 32*) v Nottinghamshire

County cricket generally has an unfair reputation. While some deride the standard, the lack of interest and the intensity of combat, those who attend regularly know that the quality and competitiveness remain as high as ever.

But then there are days like this. Days which lack the direction to meander. Days which lack the meaning to be pointless. Days when cricket journalists wish they'd become plumbers and when you could swear Wilfred Owen was thinking of county cricket when he wrote Futility. Was it for this that clay grew tall?

For, with poor weather robbing this game of two days, there is little more than personal pride and bonus points at stake. There are no realistic hopes of a natural conclusion. It is pretty prosaic stuff.

Notts at least showed some initiative. When the toss did finally take place, on the third morning, they inserted Warwickshire in the hope of exploiting a greenish pitch that had been under cover for a few days.

The decision was not wrong; Notts' bowlers simply failed to take advantage of the conditions. Both Charlie Shreck and Darren Pattinson are feeling their way back after injury problems and neither put the ball in the right areas often enough to capitalise. Though they beat the bat, they generally pitched too short to draw Warwickshire's batsmen into shots that would have brought edges.

The visitors also spurned two chances at two crucial stages. At the start of the day Ian Westwood was dropped off Pattinson when the batsman had scored 13 (Bilal Shafayat failing to cling on to a tricky chance at square leg), while after tea Mark Wagh missed a straightforward chance at long-leg when Neil Carter had just 4.

The deserving Luke Fletcher was the unlucky bowler on that occasion. They were costly mistakes. Westwood rode his luck to help Warwickshire to their highest opening stand of the season, while Carter seized the initiative in the final session and ensured the day ended with the hosts the happier of the two sides.

In between times, there was a fine innings from Ian Bell. Though forced into a long period of watchfulness, Bell gradually blossomed and displayed a series of those sweetly-timed strokes which mark him out as a player of such ability.

Some may dismiss the worth of this innings as the match situation hardly replicated the intensity of international cricket. But, in these bowler-friendly conditions and against an attack that gradually settled into a probing line and length, Bell showed both solidity and fluency.

But he knows it is centuries that force selectors to pay attention. And, with the hard work done, he looked furious with himself after cutting a long-hop to point straight after tea.

Bell's departure precipitated something of a collapse from Warwickshire. The hosts lost four wickets for 22 as Trott's attempt to drive was undone by extra bounce, Ambrose chipped to cover and Keith Barker, on debut, paid the price for failing to move his feet by playing-on without scoring.

Had Carter been taken early, Warwickshire would have been 250 for 7. Instead, however, he thrashed three sixes and five fours in his 26-ball stay to help the hosts plunder 125 in the final 21 overs of the day.

Though Carter eventually fell into the trap set for him - pulling straight to one of the three men on the leg-side boundary - Jim Troughton and Chris Woakes added a further 54 before stumps. Troughton, who passed 50 for the third time in four championship innings this season, looked as solid as ever, while Woakes timed the ball as well as anyone.

Both sides will hope to pick up a few more bonus points in between the showers tomorrow but, if ever a game offered a compelling case for cricketing euthanasia, this is it.

George Dobell is chief writer at Spin magazine