Final, Lord's, September 28 - October 01, 2021, Bob Willis Trophy

Warwickshire won by an innings and 199 runs


Warwickshire close in on Bob Willis Trophy as Lancashire middle order folds

English season forced into October as bad light halts victory charge

Paul Edwards
Paul Edwards
Warwickshire celebrate the run-out of Alex Davies as Lancashire toil on day 3, Warwickshire vs Lancashire, Bob Willis Trophy final, Lord's, 3rd day, September 30, 2021

Warwickshire celebrate the run-out of Alex Davies as Lancashire toil on day 3  •  Alex Davidson/Getty Images

Lancashire 78 and 171 for 6 (Balderson 65) trail Warwickshire 518 (Rhodes 156, Yates 113, Sibley 57, Hain 55; Parkinson 4-78, Blatherwick 3-80) by 269 runs
For all that teams make much of their spirit and the importance of playing for each other, there are times when a cricketer's only recourse is his own mulish determination to prevail. As far as Lancashire's batters were concerned, the second innings of this match at Lord's was one such occasion. Sent packing in just over a session on the first day of this Bob Willis Trophy game, they had fielded for nearly two days as Warwickshire established a first-innings lead of 440. Now they had to clean up the mess.
Rather neatly - Glen Chapple may have another phrase for it - Lancashire need to halve that advantage merely to ensure they do not go down to the heaviest innings defeat in their county's history. The previous annihilation took place 71 seasons ago when Alf Valentine took 13 for 67 for the touring West Indians at Old Trafford. Twelve years earlier Hedley Verity had picked up 5 for 21 when Yorkshire travelled across the Pennines and handed out an innings and 200-run thrashing in the Roses match. That is Lancashire's heaviest defeat to another county. "Up to now…" came the grumpy chorus on social media.
So yes, it was time for Dane Vilas and his fellow batters in the top order to bind themselves tight to their techniques and hope it would be enough. To hold on, in other words, when there was nothing left in the tank except the will to do so. Paraphrasing Kipling was actually not the worst idea - it didn't harm CLR James - but suddenly last week at Aigburth seemed a very long time ago. So did talk of the title and we were soon to discover how much that victory over Hampshire had taken out of Lancashire.
Plainly the situation was utterly different for Will Rhodes's cricketers. Having secured the title last Friday and celebrated the matter in appropriate fashion, they were now presented with the chance to freewheel downhill to the absolute end of the season by stuffing the runners-up out of sight. The prospect clearly appealed and will have been made all the more delightful when Paul Allott, Lancashire's outgoing director of cricket, criticised Rhodes's team for their negative tactics when they played at Emirates Old Trafford earlier this month.
Lancashire's second dig began badly before lunch when Alex Davies ran himself out, thereby impaling himself on his own flagstaff. Facing 25 balls for 11 runs didn't quite satisfy the needs of the situation. Lancashire's deficit was still 417 when Davies marched off without waiting for the umpire's review. By contrast, Craig Miles, soon to be Davies' county colleague, celebrated his pick-up and direct hit from midwicket.
We waited to see how much resistance Lancashire's batters could summon in the afternoon session. Ending the season with a hammering at the hands of the newly-crowned champions was plainly no way for their season to end. Or so we thought. Nonetheless, a somewhat ghoulish landmark was passed in the 22nd over when Luke Wells drove an over-pitched ball from Danny Briggs to the Grand Stand boundary and Lancashire passed their first-innings total for the loss of only Davies' wicket.
Then Wells fenced at a ball from Tim Bresnan and edged a catch to Michael Burgess. Suddenly it became clear that there really was nothing left in some tanks. Josh Bohannon played his worst shot of the year and was caught at slip by Sam Hain off Liam Norwell for 8. George Balderson, for whom the last month has been a glorious confirmation of a very rich future, was then bowled for 65 by a fine ball from Norwell. Steven Croft and Vilas fell in two overs straight after tea although replays suggested Croft didn't touch the ball from Briggs en route to Bresnan at slip. He ambled away just the same
Suddenly it became clear that the only thing stopping the English first-class season ending in September was the English weather or, more specifically, the English light. Umpires Mike Burns and David Millns checked their light meters twice before finally deciding it was too murky. By that stage Luke Wood was unbeaten on 13 and Rob Jones was yet to score. It began to rain and play was abandoned. A game scheduled for five days will limp into a fourth and maybe a fifth if the forecast is to be trusted.
"The glass is falling hour by hour, the glass will fall for ever / But if you break the bloody glass you won't hold up the weather." wrote Louis MacNeice in "Bagpipe Music". One way or another it is now plain that only the weather can hold up Warwickshire and it is unlikely that it will rain for two days. Even if the game is drawn Rhodes will lift the Bob Willis Trophy because his team scored 518 runs in their first innings as against their opponents' 78. Lancashire are hanging on by their fingertips and, one way or another, Warwickshire are going to stamp on them.

Paul Edwards is a freelance cricket writer. He has written for the Times, ESPNcricinfo, Wisden, Southport Visiter and other publications

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