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Liam Norwell firing with bat and ball to lead Warwickshire hopes against relegation

Liam Norwell of Warwickshire bats Getty Images

Warwickshire 275 for 8 (Norwell 58*) v Surrey

Aston Villa are back in the Premier League, which will doubtless have raised a cheer or two in the Warwickshire dressing room. There have not been too many so far this season. As things stand, relegation may be their fate. By the time Villa reacquaint themselves with life at the top in early August, we will have a pretty good idea whether they can come up with an alternative ending.

There is hope. Three defeats in three matches does not read well but they gave leaders Somerset a decent fight in the last round and they could not be accused of lacking backbone on the opening day against the defending champions. And, of course, they need finish ahead of only one county to stay up.

Surrey, with a raft of injuries and three of their squad away with England, have yet to register a win themselves but still present formidable opposition. At times, their seam bowlers were a little erratic after Rory Burns had decided to forego the toss and test Warwickshire's mettle against Morne Morkel and company, but until the last hour, when profit came from an unlikely source for the home side, there was never a point at which any batsman could feel quite at ease.

Warwickshire supporters will not have been unhappy, then, with the application shown by Dom Sibley and Will Rhodes in trying to set down a solid foundation, or by Sam Hain and Adam Hose, who gritted their way through 25 overs in the afternoon. Rob Yates, playing in only his third first-class match at the age of 19, showed he could get his head down too.

Yet on a slow pitch the one thing that was missing was momentum. Hain's 47 took 138 minutes; Hose spent 117 minutes over his 38. Which meant that when Surrey's bowlers found some momentum of their own in an extended final session following earlier rain, it felt like Warwickshire's hard work had amounted to not very much.

But then Surrey, unexpectedly, let a strong position slip from their grasp. From 186 for 8, Warwickshire closed on 275 for 8, thanks largely to the positive aggression of Liam Norwell and Henry Brookes, who had plainly decided they may as well chance their arm and see where it might take them.

In the event, it took Warwickshire into a much healthier position than had earlier looked likely. Norwell, who moved to Edgbaston from Gloucestershire in the winter but missed the start of the season through injury, followed his nine wickets on debut last week with the third half-century of his career.

Brookes, meanwhile, gave the full treatment to a couple of very inviting balls from Dean Elgar's left-arm spin and thereafter confidently advanced to a pleasantly accomplished 35 not out. They have added 89 so far.

It all rather took the shine off what was shaping up as the story of the day, a triumphant return to the Championship side for Matt Dunn.

The 27-year-old quick was Surrey's leading wicket-taker in 2014 but thereafter became rather lost amid the simultaneous emergence of so much young talent at The Oval, not least the two Currans. Last season, he barely got a look-in. Indeed, this was his first appearance in 13 months.

In his afternoon spell, he served a reminder that he can still land a few punches, dismissing Hain, Hose and Tim Ambrose in the space of 21 balls. In tandem with Ryan Patel, one of the aforementioned golden generation, he reduced Warwickshire from 164 for 3 to 186 for 8 and the day seemed to belong to Surrey. Patel, who made his maiden hundred earlier this season, produced a pearl of a delivery to dismiss Liam Banks, which was then matched by the slip catch Rikki Clarke held to help him remove his namesake, Jeetan.

I doubt if Norwell is a Villa supporter. Solihull-born Brookes, on the other hand, might well be. Either way, between them they caught the mood.

Surrey 4th innings Partnerships

WktRunsPlayers
1st30MD StonemanRJ Burns
2nd12SG BorthwickRJ Burns
3rd8BT FoakesRJ Burns
4th19RJ BurnsWG Jacks
5th13D ElgarWG Jacks
6th11R ClarkeWG Jacks
7th0R ClarkeRS Patel
8th24R ClarkeM Morkel
9th6GJ BattyR Clarke
10th18R ClarkeMP Dunn