Warwickshire v Lancashire, County Championship, 1st day June 18, 2004

Wagh weighs in for Warwickshire

Liam Brickhill

Warwickshire 495 for 9 (Wagh 167) v Lancashire at Stratford-upon-Avon

A century from Mark Wagh put Warwickshire in a dominant position on the first day against Lancashire at Stratford-upon-Avon. After Nick Knight won the toss and opted to bat, Wagh cashed in on an excellent batting track, sharing in partnerships of 141 with Knight (53), and 154 with Ian Bell (49), as Warwickshire closed on 495 for 9.

Lancashire came into the match with a number of players missing due to injury. Glen Chapple is still recovering from a blow to the head he received against Sussex last week, Carl Hooper is nursing a fractured thumb, and Ian Sutcliffe is still absent with a hamstring problem. To add to that, Andrew Flintoff, James Anderson and Sajid Mahmood are all away on England duty.

Wagh began aggressively, hitting five fours before picking up his first single with a push into the covers. After the positive start, John Wood came back well, and beat Knight's bat no less than four times with balls angled across him. Two maidens on the trot slowed the run-rate, until Knight broke the shackles with a savage cut past point off Wood. On 44, Wagh edged a regulation catch to Stuart Law at second slip, but he failed to hold onto the ball, and Lancashire's first real chance to break the partnership went begging.

Steve Crook replaced Wood in the 18th over, and in his first over produced a quicker ball that nipped in off the seam and beat Wagh's bat, inducing a half-hearted appeal, perhaps only to celebrate the quality of the delivery. Crook then proved his first ball wasn't a fluke, completely squaring Wagh up next ball and inducing another play-and-miss. However, the luck stayed with Warwickshire, and in just the 19th over Lancashire already had a sweeper on the cover boundary, testament to the quality of the pitch and the batting. There was some life in the pitch for the slower bowlers though, and in his four overs before lunch Gary Keedy found appreciable turn. He trapped Knight lbw for 53, signalling the lunch interval, with the score at 141 for 1.

Wagh proved particularly strong on the leg side, clipping Keedy through midwicket for four to take his score to 99, and bringing up his 18th first-class hundred in the next over, bowled by Martin, with a pull to the square-leg boundary. Martin claimed some retribution though, when Wagh played a ball onto his left knee, leaving him in great pain. He declined the services of a runner, and though the injury seemed to affect his concentration for a while, his shot-making remained fluent.

At the other end Ian Bell's innings went almost unnoticed, but he brought up the hundred partnership with a crunching drive through the covers off Wood. The Lancashire bowlers were beginning to tire, with Wood bowling several no-balls, as well as slipping in an unintentional beamer. With the score on 248, Bell gave Lancashire a half-chance, slicing a ball from Dinesh Mongia just short of Keedy at gully.

Wagh brought up his 150 with yet another trademark whip off his legs for four, and Bell had moved untroubled to 49 before he sliced a slower ball from Crook to Law at gully, who this time held onto the catch (295 for 2). Crook struck again in his next over, getting the vital breakthrough for Lancashire by dismissing Wagh, again caught by Law at gully off a slower ball, for 167 (304 for 3).

Troughton got off the mark with a well-timed push off the back foot for four, and followed that with a flick through square leg as the runs continued to flow for Warwickshire. Lancashire struck back though, with Law taking another catch, this time at silly mid-off, to remove Troughton for 8 on the stroke of tea (313 for 4).

After the interval, Mongia, brought into this match as an emergency replacement for Hooper, trapped Dougie Brown lbw for 16 (356 for 5), but Jonathan Trott and Brad Hogg continued the onslaught, adding 63 in quick time before Martin, who had bowled economically without ever looking dangerous, bowled Trott for 54, before trapping Jonathan Frost lbw for a third-ball duck (419 for 7). Following on from his unbeaten 94 off 61 balls against Northants on Wednesday, Brad Hogg this time raced to 56 from 44, before Martin struck for the third time in the session.

Neil Carter and Naqqash Tahir followed Hogg's lead with some long-handled thumping late to compound a difficult day for Lancashire. They will have to work hard tomorrow if they are to remain competitive in this match and keep alive any hopes of reversing their losing streak.