Warwickshire v Nottinghamshire, Edgbaston, 1st day July 20, 2010

Neil Carter left stranded after rescuing Warwickshire

George Dobell at Edgbaston

Nottinghamshire 18 for 0 v Warwickshire 313
Scorecard

There may be some awkward silences over breakfast and dinner at Boyd Rankin's house over the next few days. It's not that the tall Irishman is a poor conversationalist - far from it - but the fact that he denied his house guest a well-deserved century that could make the atmosphere a little tense.

For Neil Carter is staying with Rankin this week. And, after Rankin dozily ran himself out to leave Carter stranded on 99, both men were left crouching at either end of the pitch with their heads in their hands.

Carter (123 balls, ten fours and five sixes) richly deserved a century. By thwarting an attack containing four international bowlers, he earned Warwickshire a lifeline in a match they can't afford to lose if they are to have any chance of avoiding relegation. They have already lost seven games out of ten and know that a team has never survived the drop with so many defeats.

Very well he played, too. Where once he was littlemore than a happy slogger, he has now developed into a consistent cricketer who knows when to attack and defend. This was his fourth half-century of the championship season and leaves him top of Warwickshire's batting averages. In a squad that includes Jonathan Trott and Ian Bell, that's a fine effort.

It took a moment of madness to deny Carter. Backing-up in an over enthusiastic manner, Rankin was left well short of his ground after turning like an oil-tanker and failing to beat Graeme Swann's direct hit. It's not hard to understand Carter's disappointment. He has scored only one first-class century and that was back in 2002. These opportunities don't come along very often.

Still, he could take consolation in a job well done. His efforts had helped Warwickshire to their highest first innings score since April and the relative riches of three batting bonus points. They had managed only three in their previous six matches. He had also helped Warwickshire's last two wickets add 113 crucial runs. On a pitch that is likely to remain helpful to bowlers, the hosts' final total is probably not far short of par.

It was not just Carter's stroke play that impressed. It was the way he farmed the strike. Time and again, he nudged the ball into gaps off the final ball of the over to ensure that Rankin faced only 12 deliveries in their tenth-wicket stand of 46. Indeed, Carter rubbed salt into Nottinghamshire's wounds by stealing a single off the final ball of an over off which he had already plundered three sixes.

Entertaining though Carter's innings was, there was something unsettling about it from an England supporters' perspective. This Nottinghamshire attack contains three centrally contracted England bowlers, all of whom featured in the World Twenty20 success in the Caribbean just two months ago. To see them thrashed to all parts of Edgbaston by a tail-end batsman was not encouraging for any English supporter with an eye to the Ashes.

Stuart Broad sustained the fiercest mauling. At one stage Carter punished him for three sixes in an over (a pull, a wonderful cover drive and an upper cut), hitting the England fast bowler out of the attack. Whatever advice any of his teammates offered, it is highly unlikely it included the phrase ''Perhaps you could try the short ball a bit more, Stuart?'

Carter also hit Ryan Sidebottom for two sixes (a back foot straight drive and a sliced drive over point) while Swann, playing his first Championship match in over a year, suffered the indignity of being slog-swept for two sixes by Imran Tahir, a man with few pretensions as a batsman. In all the trio, playing a championship game together for the first time since May 2008, conceded 248 in 65 overs.

They were also out-bowled by a 35-year-old who New Zealand deemed worthy of just one Test cap. Andre Adams was easily the pick of the bowlers, maintaining a tight line and gaining enough movement to trouble batsmen all day. Indeed, by the time that Adams bowled Chris Woakes off the inside edge to leave Warwickshire on 157 for 7, it appeared the visitors had taken a firm grip upon the game.

Until that point, Nottinghamshire had bowled pretty well. Sidebottom, who swung the ball all day, dismissed Botha with a beauty that moved away, before Trott was unable to capitalise on a let off in the slips on 13 and edged another fine delivery that bounced and left him. Ian Westwood drove loosely and edged to slip while Jim Troughton was drawn into a prod at one that spun away and took the edge - a classic off-spinner's dismissal of a left-hander. Darren Maddy undid his promising to start when he pulled a short ball directly down the throat of long-leg. It was the third time this season he had fallen to such a sucker punch. Clarke edged a good one that left him and Tim Ambrose edged a footless drive.

So, had Carter been taken early, Warwickshire may have failed to gain even a single batting point. As it was Nottinghamshire put him down to successive deliveries. If Chris Read did well to lay a hand on the first chance, a gloved pull that flew down the leg side, Alex Hales should have done much better with the next: a regulation outside edge to third slip. Sidebottom was the unfortunate bowler on both occasions. Warwickshire would have been 179 for eight had the first chance been taken. Carter was on just 16.

Carter is out of contract at Edgbaston at the end of this season but, in his words, it would be a "massive surprise" if he were to leave. He's been a key member of Warwickshire's limited-overs team for years but this season is well on the way to record championship hauls with bat and ball. Aged 35, he is playing the best cricket of his career and it's no surprise that he is beginning to attract the attention of some IPL teams.

"That's probably the best innings of my career," Carter admitted afterwards. "It's the most balls I've faced in an innings and while I've scored a century before, I've usually just gone out and blazed some shots. This time I felt I batted properly. I even played out a maiden at one point. And to do it against an attack of that class is very pleasing.

"Boyd just said 'sorry.' What else could he do? If anything he was trying too hard. I'd still settle for 99 ten times out of ten when I go out to bat and I can only be satisfied with an innings that has put us back in the game."

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