Paul Edwards is a freelance cricket writer. He has written for the Times, ESPNcricinfo, Wisden, Southport Visiter and other publications
Warwickshire371 (Benjamin 127, Hain 118, Mahmood 4-77) and 239 for 6 dec. (Sibley 57; Parkinson 4-94) drew with Lancashire 331 (Bohannon 170, Vilas 67, Norwell 6-57)
Rather like radical socialism and the novels of Samuel Beckett, leg-spin bowling will always be viewed with suspicion by the English establishment. Matt Parkinson bowled 40 overs at Emirates Old Trafford on Thursday; indeed he wheeled away unchanged from the Brian Statham End on a pitch offering him some help but never outrageous charity. Had he enjoyed a trifle more luck on a rather tense morning, Parkinson would have finished with more than the four wickets for 94 runs that the books will forever show against his name. More to the point, Lancashire might have taken wickets with a rapidity that would have allowed Dane Vilas's batsmen to mount a run-chase.
As things turned out, however, the players shook hands at 4.50pm with Warwickshire on 239 for 6, the draw secured and their place at the top of an intriguing Division One table retained. Parkinson, of course, will enjoy the sleep of the just albeit he may wake with a stiffish shoulder and the reassurance that he could have done little more to help his side. But one rather doubts his chances of playing five-day cricket for England have been increased by a scruple.
If such doubts are well-founded, Parkinson might be slightly comforted that he has joined an honourable lineage. Wilfred Rhodes is the only bowler in the game's history to have taken more first-class wickets than 'Tich' Freeman yet the Kent leggie played only a dozen Tests. And the reluctance to give wrist spin a proper go in five-day games was maintained in later eras: Robin Hobbs played seven Tests, Ian Salisbury, 15. Such bowlers were seen as exotic, expensive luxuries, rarely to be selected and even more rarely to be trusted when they did get a gig. Perhaps they are still are. White-ball cricket is a different game of flannelled soldiers.
Warwickshire should receive plenty of plaudits for their tough-minded determination to scrap for a draw on this last-day pitch. One can think of other counties that would have given it away, but Will Rhodes' men displayed the gutsiness that may yet make them County Champions in three weeks or so. After Chris Benjamin had been leg before when attempting to sweep Parkinson in the sixth over of the day Dom Sibley batted 207 minutes for his 57 runs and Sam Hain just over two and a half hours for his 48. They were the innings that made the draw a heavy odds-on favourite at the bookies.
Indeed the morning resolved itself into something of a duel between Sibley, a batsman who may never play another Test match, and Parkinson, a bowler who will probably be seen as yet another under-used twirler in five-day cricket. One hopes it will not be so; both Sibley and Parkinson are decent blokes who deserve a little better from life. The problem is that while cricket is the most generous and incomparable of games it is rarely particularly just. Think of James Hildreth, Think of Glen Chapple.
Warwickshire partook of lunch with the scoreboard reading 115 for 2 and although Parkinson took two further wickets during the afternoon session, it soon became plain as a three-egg omelette that the match would be drawn. Sibley was bowled round his legs when attempting yet another sweep and Rhodes was quite brilliantly caught by Luke Wells who dived from first slip and stuck out his left hand to grab a sharply-edged drive. Such dismissals are more likely when your slip is 6ft 4ins tall. In between these successes a vastly less distinguished piece of cricket resulted in the departure of Hain, who had faced 126 balls when he smacked a full toss from Liam Livingstone straight to extra cover where the substitute fielder, Richard Gleeson, took the catch.
Warwickshire's lead was over 200 when Rhodes was out and it had grown to 231 when Matt Lamb and Michael Burgess returned to the pavilion for tea. With the result clear, the cricket descended into the playful farce that completely bemuses spectators who have not been inducted into the game's eccentricities.
There is a good argument that it should be possible to agree a draw in mid-afternoon on days when it's clear neither side can win the game but if that possibility had been open today we should have been denied the sight of Josh Bohannon playing keepy-uppy when he caught Burgess off Parkinson or, more bizarrely still, the chance to watch Vilas bowl only the second over of his 15-year professional career. That was worth seeing but not worth going to see.
Warwickshire vs Lancashire