Westwood ton makes Worcs pay
Warwickshire 179 for 1 (Westwood 101*, Bell 32*) v Worcestershire
While it may be customary to offer gifts when visiting neighbours, Worcestershire may reflect they were generous to a fault on the first day of their visit to Birmingham. Not only did they break the golden rule of never inserting at Edgbaston, but they then produced a bowling performance so full of juicy half-volleys and succulent long-hops, that Warwickshire were able to gorge themselves with gratitude.
In defence of Vikram Solanki's decision, the pitch was so unusually green it was barely distinguishable from the rest of the square. Had his bowlers maintained anything like a decent line and length, batting might have proved hard work.
But they didn't. Though Matt Mason was tidy enough, Gareth Andrew and Imran Arif both conceded over five per over, with Richard Jones' undermining the odd threatening delivery by delivering too many poor balls. It was not hard to see why the team are adrift at the foot of the Division One table without a win all year.
"We didn't bowl as well as we could," admitted Steve Rhodes, Worcestershire's director of cricket "and the pitch didn't do as much as we thought it would."
Ian Westwood was the biggest beneficiary of Worcestershire's largesse. The Warwickshire captain, who was averaging just 21 in first-class cricket this season before this match, compiled the seventh first-class century of his career and his first in 15 months.
Very nicely he played, too. His chanceless innings has, so far, contained 18 boundaries, the majority of them driven through the covers with some panache. Though there were periods of playing and missing, Westwood maintained his concentration and looked far more compact than previously this season. Having taken 89 balls over his first half-century, his second took just 57 deliveries.
It was a timely innings from Warwickshire's captain. Not only are his side desperate to claim a win that would shore-up their first division survival hopes, but Westwood was in dire need of such a performance to silence those who question his place in the side. This century might just have saved his position.
He has so far added 100 for Warwickshire's second wicket with Ian Bell. Looking hungry for a long innings, Bell adopted a safety first approach, but received enough poor balls to ensure he was never bogged down. Jonathan Trott, who returned from England duty only the night before the game, was not required but came into the side in place of Rikki Clarke, who has a minor knee injury.
The only moment of joy for the visitors came when Ant Botha played around a fine delivery that nipped back through his gate from Jones.
Warwickshire may still struggle to squeeze out a result this week, however. Rain cut 48 overs from the day and there was no play after 3.15pm. It was hard to escape the impression that Worcestershire had given up some time earlier.
Warwickshire are winning the battle off the pitch, too. The clubs are vying for the services of a number of players, but Warwickshire have drawn first blood after Naqaash Tahir, the subject of an approach from Worcestershire, verbally agreed a new two-year contract to remain at Edgbaston. He will sign within the next few days.
Both clubs are also interested in Yorkshire seamer Ajmal Shahzad and Devon left-arm spinner Chris Metters. Warwickshire are also considering an approach for former England seamer Matthew Hoggard, possibly as a player-coach to succeed the departing Allan Donald.
There is a possibility of further transfers as counties seek to plunder Worcestershire. Warwickshire, like most counties, would be interested in Stephen Moore and Kabir Ali if they became available. Moore has a clause in his contract allowing him to speak to other counties if Worcestershire are relegated, while Kabir is contracted until the end of 2010.