Yorkshire edge lead in fluctuating battle
Warwickshire 217 and 84 for 1 v Yorkshire 274
Adil Rashid did not enjoy the most satisfactory of winters. Included in the England party to tour South Africa, he produced just four expensive overs in international cricket and slipped down the pecking order to such an extent that he lost his place in the limited-overs squad to James Tredwell.
Surely, however, he still possesses a golden future. He has already claimed over 170 first-class wickets and scored four first-class centuries. And, aged just 22, he has plenty of time to improve. It was Rashid's batting that caught the eye on the second day at Edgbaston. Coming to the crease with the match in the balance, Rashid demonstrated technique, talent and intelligence to earn his side a narrow advantage after the first innings.
It was not just the shots Rashid played that impressed - pleasing though many were - but those he did not. He left the ball with a discipline that put several of his more experienced colleagues to shame and, by reaching further forward to defend than anyone on either side, nullified the unpredictable bounce and movement this pitch continues to offer.
In between the defence, he unfurled some delightful attacking strokes. Waiting for the poor ball, he cut with a flourish and whipped the ball off his legs with real panache. On this evidence there's no reason why he should not, in due course, bat in the top six for Yorkshire and, perhaps, England.
He was offered steadfast support by Ajmal Shahzad. Shuffling into his shots in a manner reminiscent of Kim Barnett, Shahzad was admirably patient (his 30 occupied 125 deliveries) and helped Rashid add 63 runs in 36 overs. With Azeem Rafiq also progressing through the county's system, it suggests that whatever problems Yorkshire may have had utilising the talent of its Asian community in the past, they have been corrected now.
If progress was painstaking at times - at one stage Shahzad went 49 minutes and 44 deliveries without adding to his score - this was also an absorbing contest, offering a far more complete display of cricketing skills than can ever be produced by a Twenty20 match. Those that decry the championship should take note; tinker with it and we tinker with the foundations of the Test team.
Rashid and Shahzad's defiance helped Yorkshire eek out a first-innings lead of 57. Had Jonathan Trott, usually so reliable in the slips, clung on to a relatively straightforward chance offered by Rashid off the deserving Naqaash Tahir when the batsman had just 7, the hosts may even have earned a lead. Trott eventually made amends with the ball by extracting some extra bounce to find the edge of Rashid's bat.
Yorkshire may still reflect that they squandered a golden opportunity, however. At 176 for 3, they had the chance to put this game beyond Warwickshire, but paid the price for an inappropriately aggressive approach.
While there was little Andrew Gale could do about the horrible low bounce of the delivery that dismissed him, many of his colleagues were less innocent. Jacques Rudolph, having batted beautifully and survived a 'catch' off an Andrew Miller no-ball when he had 55, undermined his good work by driving loosely at a sharp leg-break, while Tim Bresnan prodded, leaded footed, at one he could have left and Jonathan Bairstow pulled obligingly to square-leg.
In their second innings, Warwickshire lost their captain early. There was little Ian Westwood could do to avoid the brute of a lifter that reared and took his glove, however, providing a reminder that this pitch, though slow, is likely to continue to offer bowlers assistance throughout the game.
Not that any demons were apparent from the way Ian Bell batted in the last hour. Bell has looked imperious in this match. He seems to have grown in stature over the winter and now appears on the brink of flourishing into the world-class player his talent always suggested he could become. An almost dismissive pull for six off Rashid in the last over of the day underlined his dominance and, but for a run-out chance offered when he had just eight (Joe Sayers failed to hit the stumps from close range), he looked quite untroubled.
Varun Chopra was less convincing, but remained unbeaten at stumps. Warwickshire have fought their way back into this game but, with two days to go, it remains a compelling and unpredictable contest.