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Ambrose, Clarke rescue Warwickshire

Warwickshire 283 for 8 (Clarke 74, Ambrose 72, Ball 4-76) lead Nottinghamshire 152 (Patel 3-8, Clarke 3-24) by 131 runs
Scorecard

Warwickshire's middle-order came to the rescue once again to help them gain the initiative on the second day of an engrossing match against Nottinghamshire.

Reeling at 48 for 4, with all three of their leading run-scorers dismissed, Warwickshire were grateful to half-centuries from Tim Ambrose and Rikki Clarke for helping them establish a significant first-innings lead (it is 131 with power to add) and a decent chance of at least three batting bonus points that looked beyond them at one stage.

Warwickshire have been, at various times in the first innings of their Championship matches this season, 132 for 5 (against Hampshire), 173 for 6 (against Middlesex), 88 for 6 (against Somerset), 161 for 7 (against Nottinghamshire), 259 for 8 (against Durham) and 94 for 6 (against Lancashire) but, such is the depth of their batting, they have been able to register totals of 360, 468, 152, 373, 313 and 263 respectively.

It was a similar story here. With the top-order folding against an impressive opening spell from Jake Ball - who had 3 for 12 at one stage - it was left to Ambrose and Clarke to claw their side a way back into the match. Aided by a drying surface and a tiring attack, both men registered their highest scores of the campaign so far with Ambrose punishing the seamers for any error of line or length and Clarke attacking the spinners.

Clarke has been, with the bat at least, in horrid form of late. As well as ducks in his previous two Championship innings, he was also dismissed first ball in his latest T20 innings and has only once, in his last seven Championship innings, passed 12.

But here, after surviving a chance to slip when he had 24, Matt Carter putting down the chance off Brett Hutton, he showed good discipline against the seamers - he scored just 8 in 48 balls from Hutton and Steven Mullaney combined - and punished Carter by taking him for 30 runs in 31 deliveries including a straight-driven six and three cuts for four.

Ambrose took full toll of a loose spell from Dan Christian, who conceded five boundaries in his 17 balls, and also took an overpitching Hutton for four boundaries.

Nottinghamshire were not helped by an injury to seamer Luke Fletcher. While Fletcher did not offer the threat of Ball, whose first few overs were outstanding, he ensured pressure was maintained on the batsmen. But when he was forced off with a groin strain, it left Notts over-reliant upon Ball and looking a seamer short.

Indeed, so reliant were they on Ball that he was obliged to bowl 23 of the 79 overs delivered by his side - 10 more than fellow seamer Hutton and nine more than spinner Samit Patel - and saw his figures suffer as a consequence.

His first spell had been excellent. Generating sharp bounce from a good length to take the edge of Varun Chopra's bat, he followed it with an outswinger to account for Andrew Umeed, poking tentatively at a ball that demanded a stroke, before Ian Bell, feet going nowhere, followed one he could have left and edged to slip. By the time Jonathan Trott, playing across a straight one, it seemed Warwickshire may struggle to overhaul Nottinghamshire's modest total.

But first through Sam Hain, who registered his highest score of a disappointing Championship season, and then Ambrose and Clarke, Warwickshire posted stands of 69, 64 and 55 for the fifth, sixth and seventh wickets. The highest stand in the match up to that point had been just 30.

Warwickshire have persisted with Hain through a grim start to the season - he was averaging under 10 before this innings - in the knowledge that he is one of relatively few young players in the squad about whom they can have realistic hopes of one day replacing the likes of Bell and Trott.

While Chopra has been consistent this season - he has scored five fifties and a hundred - it seems he is destined to leave at the end of the season, with Essex the most likely destination. He will prove hard to replace, with Warwickshire keen to back their own in principle. If they do decide to recruit, though, Scott Borthwick and Ben Duckett are possible targets.

While Hain was caught behind, edging a well-flighted Carter delivery that invited the drive, Ambrose was lured into an attempted force that led to an edge and Clarke clipped one to deep square-leg, Keith Barker, Jeetan Patel and Mark Adair stretched the lead further and exploited the absence of Fletcher.

This was a tough day for Fletcher. He had earlier taken a thumping blow on the head - the ball seemed to hit the badge of his helmet - when batting. Misjudging a back-of-a-length ball from the impressively hostile Boyd Rankin, bowling round the wicket with a short-leg and fly-slip, Fletcher required several minutes of treatment following the incident.

To his immense credit, he was straight back in line when play restarted, but Samit Patel claimed the final two wickets of the Notts innings in his first over of the morning after Christian, edging a long-hop, and Hutton, edging a perfect out swinger, had earlier fallen to Clarke.

This is an important match for both teams. If Warwickshire retain realistic hopes of challenging for the Championship title - and with their squad, they really should - they need to start winning more games; they have won just one of their first seven. But for Nottinghamshire, who have lost four of their last seven, another defeat would see them sink further into trouble and might condemn them to a late-season relegation scrap. The weather over the final two days of this match, which is not forecast to be great, may yet save them.