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Lamb's youthful purpose is positive for Warwickshire

Warwiclshire 302 for 7 (Clarke 83, Lamb 51) vs Middlesex
Scorecard

Warwickshire's struggles tend to be blamed on the age factor. Theirs has been moving in only one direction for a number of years with the first eleven often consisting almost entirely of players over 30. It is not the only factor in their decline but it is clearly significant.

It is not out of sentiment, of course, that so many seniors have kept their places. The fact is that few of the younger players at Edgbaston have been good enough to force them out. Warwickshire's academy is long established but the last graduate, so to speak, to do enough to earn a county cap was Chris Woakes, who is now 28.

Woakes is an all-rounder. The last specialist batsman to emerge from the academy and win a county cap - Ian Westwood - retired last week, less than three weeks short of his 35th birthday.

Given the enormous number of people in Warwickshire's catchment area it is a depressing state of affairs, illustrated only too starkly by the recruitment of all-rounder Will Rhodes, who will join the staff next season. Rhodes, 22, used to captain Yorkshire's academy but cannot get in their first team.

Bringing down the average age of the Warwickshire side is one of many tasks Ashley Giles agreed to take on when he returned to Edgbaston during the winter. He will be encouraged, therefore, that Matt Lamb was good enough to mark his home Championship debut with a half-century.

Lamb, a 20-year-old right-handed batsman from Wolverhampton who went to school in Bromsgrove and has been playing club cricket for Barnt Green since he was a junior, was a late choice for this match, called up as a replacement for Ian Bell, who has an elbow injury.

There are no bigger boots to fill - figuratively speaking, at least - in this Warwickshire side. Yet Lamb met the challenge impressively, showing patience initially and then, when responsibility fell on him for a while to hold Warwickshire's innings together, a good measure of composure.

Coming in at 86 for 3 when Sam Hain pushed at one from Ryan Higgins to be caught behind. He was off the mark with a single off his first ball but remained in single figures for more than an hour, content to leave Jonathan Trott to keep the scoreboard moving.

Things changed when Trott was out, lobbing an easy return catch to Tom Helm when he completely mistimed a pull. Lamb could have panicked but instead had the confidence to take the initiative himself as Tim Ambrose joined him, pulling Helm for his first boundary and following up with a couple more.

The pitch was a good deal easier than the raging turner he had encountered on his first-class debut at Taunton last year, yet it was one that Middlesex felt might offer them enough to merit bowling first and while their attack was missing both England call-up Toby Roland-Jones and Steven Finn, who pulled out with back spasms, it was hardly lightweight.

Lamb soon lost Ambrose, leg before playing back to Higgins, which left him as the last specialist batsman, yet he was unfazed, going on to complete his half-century off 119 balls with his fifth boundary, before coming unstuck against the off-spinner, Ollie Rayner, who lured him into stretching a little for a ball outside off-stump, which he edged to slip.

There are, in fact, three academy products in this eleven, the others being Andy Umeed, who made his second first-class hundred last week against Lancashire, a match in which the right-arm seamer George Panayi took 3 for 41 on debut. Others have flattered to deceive here but there is some cause for optimism, at least.

Lamb's was not the innings of the day. That honour went to Rikki Clarke, who will be 36 in September, whose 83, including nine fours and a six off Rayner, took Warwickshire to a third batting point before he was leg before to a full delivery from James Harris to what became the last ball of the day.

As well as losing Finn and Roland-Jones from their bowling, Middlesex made a change at the top of their batting order, where Nick Gubbins, leading run scorer in last season's title-winning side, is the man to give way to the returning Sam Robson.