Division 1, Birmingham, September 21 - 24, 2021, County Championship
367 & 294/3d
(T:273) 389 & 154

Warwickshire won by 118 runs


Sam Hain leads the way as Warwickshire realise that Championship is in sight

Edgbaston senses title is a realistic possibility after Sibley, Rhodes battle for fifties

George Dobell
George Dobell
Sam Hain scored freely  •  Getty Images

Sam Hain scored freely  •  Getty Images

Warwickshire 283 for 4 (Hain 83*, Rhodes 60, Sibley 56) vs Somerset
It would be hard to say the exact moment when a collective realisation descended upon Edgbaston. It wasn't at the start of the day, when Warwickshire were inserted. It wasn't at lunch, which they reached on 80 for 1. It wasn't even at tea, when they 161 for 3.
But somewhere in that last session, perhaps as Sam Hain and Matt Lamb were putting together a stand of 122 in 34 overs, something changed. As the shadows lengthened, hopes grew. The spectators, who had watched relatively quietly throughout the day, started to find their voice. Gradually the unmistakable sensation emerged: Warwickshire can win this.
If they are to do so, the first session on the second day may prove crucial. While Hampshire started the round of games 3.5 points ahead, they were unable to gain a single batting bonus point from their match against Lancashire. That means that, if Warwickshire can reach 350 in 110 overs, they will gain their fourth batting bonus point (these are only available in the first 110 overs of a side's first innings) and go ahead of them. They resume on day two requiring 67 from the next 14 overs to do so, a rate of 4.78 an over.
That wouldn't be the end of their task, either. They would still have to win the match. They would still have to take maximum bowling bonus points. And they would still have to hope that Lancashire - currently 25 for 3 - do not score 400 in their first innings and win their match against Hampshire. But you can only take one step at a time and the fact is, the first day of this match could hardly have gone better from a Warwickshire perspective.
That Warwickshire's are so well placed is largely due to Hain. Hain, 26, has long had a reputation as an outstanding white-ball player - he has the highest batting average in the history of List A cricket - but has not been able to translate his undoubted ability into consistent run-making in first-class cricket.
Here, though, he was able to combine his first-class and limited-overs skills to perfection. Having taken 101 balls over his first 38 runs, demonstrating a sound technique and temperament in the process, he accelerated so smoothly that his next 51 balls realised another 45. And while Warwickshire faced eight maidens in 14 overs at one point in the afternoon, Hain struck four consecutive boundaries (three of them off Tom Abell) once the second new ball was taken.
Warwickshire have already plundered 77 from the first 16 overs against that new ball. A similar rate in the morning will take them a step closer to the title. It looks, at present, as if Hain has timed his 'chase' to perfection.
But while Hain will gain the headlines, Warwickshire will also be grateful for a slightly more prosaic contribution further up the order. This is a good batting track., but to be put in at this time of year when games start at 10.30am and reach lunch for the loss of only one wicket was a fine effort. There were moments in Dom Sibley's innings - his 56 runs occupied 55 overs - when you could feel some frustration from the crowd. But ball beat bat 16 times in that first hour and had Sibley and co. tried to push the pace, there is every chance Warwickshire's title race could be over by now.
Sibley is clearly trying to expand his game, too. He gave himself room to cut Jack Leach through the off side, he scampered sharp singles and, at times, drove with a fluency which will surprise some. Most of all, though, he took the shine off the ball and put some miles in the legs of the bowlers. Without the foundations dug by Sibley, Hain and Lamb may not have been able to build their partnership. It took a beauty from Jack Brooks, an outswinger that demanded a stroke, to dismiss him.
Lamb and the captain, Will Rhodes, are worthy of a mention, too. Until Hain's late charge, Rhodes had produced the most fluent batting of the day in recording a 102-ball half-century, while Lamb continues to provide selfless performances without achieving the significant personal score to make the position his own. Both have played their part in this performance, though.
Warwickshire's resistance appeared to frustrate Craig Overton, in particular. At one stage - but only after warning him previously - Overton appeared to have run Lamb out backing up. ESPNcricinfo understands that Somerset's captain, Abell, agreed to withdraw the appeal when the umpire, Steve O'Shaughnessy, questioned whether he wanted it upheld. The episode resulted in a little booing from the crowd but Overton is the sort of competitor any team would want on their side. He insisted on playing in this match despite a shoulder injury that he would have been well justified in resting - and Lamb really did keep wandering out of his ground.
The decision to withdraw the appeal was arguably not Somerset's most contentious of the day. They had also decided to pick Lewis Gregory, who has a partial stress fracture of the back which prevents him bowling, as a specialist batter ahead of James Hildreth. At first glance that looks like a bewildering decision, but Gregory is averaging 48.33 in this Championship season and Hildreth just 22.80. For the first time in many, many years, he has found himself dropped from Somerset's Championship side.
Warwickshire, it might be noted, also opted not to select their recently-signed overseas player, Chemar Holder. Whatever success Warwickshire enjoy this season, they may reflect ruefully on their overseas player choices. Put kindly, they haven't offered great value for money.
That is a worry for another day. For now, Warwickshire will take delight in the fact that, going into to the last three days of the Championship season, they may have might have just become favourites for the title.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

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