Warwickshire edge futile points battle
Warwickshire 403 for 8 dec (Bell 106, Trott 79, Westwood 60, Clarke 54, Newby 3-62) drew with Lancashire 317 (Chilton 85, du Plessis 79, Tahir 4-55, Botha 4-86)
It's a dispiriting experience watching cricket at Edgbaston. With the dead pitches negating the chances of victories, matches in Birmingham are cloaked in a spirit of ennui.
There have now only been two results here in the last 14 championship games. The only drama revolves around which team will claim the most bonus points. It's prosaic stuff and, unsurprisingly, has seen a steady decline in spectator numbers.
The theory is that Warwickshire's batsmen, so brittle in 2007, can regain their confidence on such tracks, while the team pick up enough points to survive by remaining unbeaten. While there is some logic in the idea, it does seem unnecessarily defensive and hardly produces thrilling cricket.
There's some doubt over the effectiveness of the tactic, too. Warwickshire have won only once here in the championship since April 2007; a run of 20 games. They remain without a win anywhere this season after seven games and will need to win away from home in the second half of the season if they are to survive.
This match was even more farcical than most. Quite apart from the pitch, the weather had cut the game in half rendering any chance of meaningful cricket almost impossible.
But, from a professional point of view, both sides had a job to do: bonus points garnered here could be crucial in the final analysis.
This contest was a classic case of the moveable force meeting the resistible object: while Warwickshire have fewer bowling bonus points than any side in either division, Lancashire have now collected full batting bonus points just once in their last 29 games.
Warwickshire enjoyed the best of the encounter. Having picked up maximum batting, they also claimed maximum bowling points for just the second time this season and the first time in five games. While the 12 points were not enough to lift them out of the bottom two, it does leave them breathing down the neck of Yorkshire and with a game in hand over most of their rivals.
Naqaash Tahir was the pick of the attack. He recorded his best figures in the championship since April 2007 and, with the wicket of Sajid Mahmood, claimed his 100th first-class victim in his sixth season of first team cricket. It was a well-timed haul for a fellow who is out of contract at the end of the season.
After snaring Tom Smith with an inswinger, Tahir saw the footless VVS Lawman guide one to slip, before the bowler returned to clean up the tail with more swing.
Ant Botha also claimed four wickets. Bowling a leg stump line, he saw three men (Francois du Plessis, Luke Sutton and Mark Chilton) fall to outfield catches in the chase for quick runs, while Kyle Hogg obligingly guided to slip. It was Botha's second best return for Warwickshire in the Championship and his best since April 2008.
At least du Plessis and Chilton will remember the game with fondness. Du Plessis recorded his highest first-class score for Lancashire to help his side to three batting bonus points. It was his sixth first-class half-century for Lancashire, but the first time he had passed 58. He eventually hit a slog-sweep down the throat of mid-wicket.
Chilton, meanwhile, made his first half-century in 10 championship innings and his highest score since April. He was dropped on 21 (a hard chance to Botha) and 72 (an edge past the keeper) but, after enduing a sticky start against an impressive spell from the hostile Boyd Rankin, Chilton produced an elegant innings, until perishing to long-on as he sought, in vain, a fourth bowling point.
Lancashire may be third but, having played two games more than some of their rivals, could well be more involved in events further down the table by the end of September.
George Dobell is chief cricket writer for Spin Magazine