Jarvis sustains Lancashire's outside title hopes

Lancashire 112 for 3 (Livingstone 41*) trail Warwickshire 200 (Patel 47, Jarvis 6-67) by 88 runs

But for the political situation in Zimbabwe, Kyle Jarvis might right now be established as one of the world's leading seam bowlers.

He had claimed two five-wicket hauls in his first eight Tests, after all, and aged just 24, should have had a long international career ahead of him.

Alas, for international cricket at least, he tired of the poor pay and political wrangling inherent with Zimbabwe cricket in those years. Instead he threw-in his lot with Lancashire as a Kolpak registration. The possibility of qualifying for England was mentioned, too.

While an England call-up looks unlikely - he will be 31 before he qualifies - rumours connecting him with a return to Zimbabwe have surfaced in recent times. Zimbabwe Cricket is now in better hands off the pitch and Heath Streak, the coach, has admitted the departure of Jarvis and Brendan Taylor (to Nottinghamshire) was a "massive loss."

"I'm hoping Zimbabwe Cricket can entice them back into the fold," he said. "Kyle has been one of the most consistent county bowlers for a number of years."

Certainly in this form Jarvis would be an asset to most teams. Bowling (in the afternoon, at least) a tight line and gaining just enough lateral movement to threaten both edges of the bat, he claimed his second successive six-wicket haul in Championship cricket and sustained Lancashire's outside hopes of snatching the County Championship title.

If that sounds unlikely - they went into this match 41 points behind Essex - it is worth remembering they play the leaders next week. A resounding victory in this game and that might narrow the gap considerably.

That they are in a great position to push for a win here was largely due to Jarvis and the equally impressive Ryan McLaren, who again captained in place of Steven Croft, who has dropped himself in favour of Jos Buttler. After an underwhelming first couple of spells (his first nine wickeletless overs cost 38 runs) - he described them as "terrible" - from the James Anderson End, Jarvis switched to the Brian Statham End and almost immediately settled into a better rhythm. He claimed four wickets in 20 balls and six in the afternoon session as he exploited a slightly two-paced surface with remorseless accuracy and just enough seam movement to find the edge.

Andy Umeed's typically stubborn innings was ended when he tried to guide one to third man but was undone by extra bounce, before Tim Ambrose was caught down the leg side (the only fortunate dismissal in the haul) and Keith Barker was punished for trying to flick a straight one. Matt Lamb was bowled by one that nipped off the seam before Jarvis returned to clean-up the tail. Jarvis did not think it relevant, but 12 of the 13 wickets to fall went to deliveries bowled from the Statham End which seemed, from afar, to offer just a bit more seam assistance.

"I didn't bowl well at all in the morning," Jarvis admitted later. "I bowled terribly. I had no rhythm. There were some tough words at lunch. But then it came out really nicely.

"When I came to England, I thought I was a swing bowler. But I'm not, really. My skill is to move the ball of the seam and, as my lines and my lengths improve, so my average is coming down. I can be a bit wayward when the ball swings."

While he did not deny he had been approached by Zimbabwe, his answers to questions on the subject may ease the minds of the Lancashire management. And, perhaps, diminish their enthusiasm (now confirmed by the club) for recruiting Steven Finn, who is out of contract at Middlesex at the end of the season, but likely to demand a hefty price-tag if he is to move.

"It's flattering to be linked with international cricket," Jarvis said. "And it is tough being away from home and family.

"But I'm contracted at Lancashire until the end of 2018 and playing for them is my only focus. I'm just thinking about the next game. I'd love to win the Championship with Lancashire. There's no reason we can't push for the title.

"Qualifying for England has always been at the back of my mind. I came over to do that. But whether they'll want a 31-year-old bowler I don't know."

They may not. But with 29 first-class wickets at a cost of 19.41 apiece this season (and 148 at 28.03 since his Lancashire debut at the end of 2013) it is not impossible the club may consider him as an overseas player even if he did decide to return to Zimbabwe.

Only a stand of 76 for the ninth-wicket between Olly Stone (who was preferred ahead of Boyd Rankin, who subsequently returned home due to illness) and Jeetan Patel - both of whom survived dropped catches - helped Warwickshire gain a single bonus point. That meant no respite for Ian Bell, in his first game since returning to the ranks, and no chance to build on their victory against Middlesex as Warwickshire seek to avoid relegation. There is some help for bowlers in this surface, but 200 may well prove to be 150 or so below par.

Bell actually looked in decent touch in making 14 but, lured into a drive at one outside off stump, edged to Jos Buttler in the slips.

How relevant might it be that Buttler found himself in the slips? It can his hopes of winning an Ashes tour place as Jonny Bairstow's wicketkeeping substitute little good and surely suggests his only hope of selection is as a specialist batsman. But a man averaging 10.25 in the season - albeit it across a sample-size of just four innings at this stage - isn't in much of a position to stake a claim as a batsman. Still, with five games to play and positions still up for grabs, he still has some time.

So, perhaps, does Bell. Nobody has ever really claimed the middle-order place he vacated when he was dropped by England at the end of 2015 and it remains just about possible that, if he ended the season well, he could yet win a recall. Nobody should doubt his good intentions: failing in his dream job of captain of the club he has loved all his life has hurt deeply and he seems to remain a man coming to terms with his life after international cricket. He has not failed for a lack of effort.

There are, though, some signs of hope for Warwickshire. The return of Stone, playing his first first-class match since May 2016 after sustaining a career-threatening injury, offers them a young bowler of sharp pace - he produced a fine, full ball to take Dane Vilas' middle stump and looked the most hostile bowler on show despite the sluggish surface - while the introduction of batsmen Dominic Sibley and Adam Hose has replenished a squad that had grown a little stale for lack of turnover. It will, barring a miracle, come too late to save them from relegation but their success, and the club's qualification for T20 Finals Day, suggests the first few bricks in the rebuilding operation have been laid.

Haseeb Hameed was also unable to push his claim for Ashes selection when he edged one that may have left him a touch, while Alex Davies was unfortunate to receive a beauty that bounced and left him. With Stephen Parry surviving a torrid spell from Stone before stumps, Lancashire will resume on day two well-placed to establish a match-defining position.