Warwickshire 81 for 1 trail Yorkshire 600 for 8 dec (McGrath 211, Sayers 173, Rudolph 62, Carter 4-129) by 519 runs
Like dollar millionaires in Zimbabwe, batting records at Edgbaston are starting to lose a little of their lustre.
For the second championship game in succession at this ground, great names of cricket's history were surpassed as new partnership records were established. In Warwickshire's previous game, it was Brian Lara and Keith Piper's fifth-wicket record stand that was broken; on this occasion it was Yorkshire's third-wicket highest partnership between Herbert Sutcliffe and Maurice Leyland (323 against Glamorgan at Huddersfield in 1928) that was overhauled.
There was much admirable about Joe Sayers and Anthony McGrath's partnership of 346 in 98 overs, but both would admit that conditions were rather too batsman friendly. A slow, flat pitch offered little encouragement to bowlers and, as a contest between bat and ball, there was little to savour. It is not even as if the pitch is quick enough to encourage stroke play. It is moribund and rewards graft more than flair. It is becomingly a wearyingly familiar characteristic of four-day cricket.
Under such circumstances, the veracity of such records is compromised. The currency of runs is devalued and , more importantly, matches like offer little of value to spectators. And cricket is meant to be a spectator sport, after all.
It is not the groundsman's fault. Steve Rouse has been asked to prepare such tracks and is merely following orders. But whether the tactic is right is debatable. Warwickshire's safety-first approach has earned them the longest unbeaten record in the land (18 games and counting) and promotion back up to the first division. It has also brought just one outright result here since the start of 2008, however, and only two home wins since the start of 2007. Hard, they may be. Entertaining they are not. The decline in spectator numbers at Edgbaston is not hard to fathom.
The bowlers and fielders must also take some of the blame, however. It is, remember, only two games since they conceded a triple-century stand at Taunton, and they cannot endlessly hide behind the conditions as an excuse for their failings.
Not only did the bowlers squander both new balls, but they put down five chances in the field. Both Sayers (on 41) and McGrath (on 20) were reprieved before they had reached 50 on the first day, while Rana Naved-ul-Hasan was dropped by Tim Ambrose on the second. It mattered little, Naved-ul-Hasan departed to his next delivery, but by spurning three chances in the innings, Ambrose must have dented his own hopes of an England recall.
Flat wicket or not, Warwickshire's failure to gain even one bowling bonus point does not reflect well on their attack. It is believed to be the first time since June 2007 that any side has suffered such a fate in an innings that has run its course, while Warwickshire have not experienced such an indignity since 2000. On that occasion, Guy Welton and Darren Bicknell posted an unbroken stand of 406 here for Nottinghamshire's first wicket.
It would also be wrong to deny Sayers or McGrath any credit. Sayers is a compact, determined fellow who knows his limitations and is content to play within them. His lack of acceleration over this nine-and-a-half-hour marathon was hard to understand, however, and Yorkshire's failure to gain full batting bonus points despite having eight wickets in hand, was surely overly cautious.
McGrath, at least, did accelerate. Though his first 50 occupied a 142 balls, his second came off just 51. He attacked the anodyne Jeetan Patel with special relish, thumping him for 14 in three deliveries at one stage, the highlight being a six over long-on. This was the 29th century of his first-class career and the first time he has reached 200.
Finally, Patel made the breakthrough. Sayers edged a drive to slip, before Neil Carter, with three wickets in eight balls, slowed progress. Andrew Gale and Adil Rashid guided catches to slip, while McGrath chopped on as he attempted to give himself room. The declaration, made the moment they reached 600, gave Yorkshire 18 overs at the hosts before stumps.
There was little to suggest Warwickshire will struggle to save this match. Matthew Hoggard has lost some of the nip that made him such a dangerous operator and was withdrawn from the attack after just three overs, while Rashid served up several full tosses in an erratic spell.
Bell, in particular, looked ominously safe. Though Tony Frost was drawn into playing one that left him, Bell produced some delightful cuts off the seamers as well as a sublime drive off Rashid to underline the impression that Warwickshire will surely have to bat exceedingly poorly if they are to lose this game.