Paul Edwards is a freelance cricket writer. He has written for the Times, ESPNcricinfo, Wisden, Southport Visiter and other publications
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Warwickshire 315 and 4 for 0 trail Lancashire 361 (Jennings 110, Wells 80, McAndrew 4-85) by 42 runs
A four-day match in which 10 wickets fall in the first five sessions cannot easily accommodate the loss of the sixth; not, at any rate, if a draw is to be avoided. So the easy consensus as the rain fell on Emirates Old Trafford on Friday was that this game was heading for honours even and genial handshakes on Sunday evening unless Lancashire could somehow establish a sizeable first-innings lead and embarrass Warwickshire on the final afternoon.
Twenty-four hours later the irony is that a draw still appears the most likely outcome but any complacent assumptions about the shape of this game have been demolished. That task was accomplished first by Olly Hannon-Dalby's fine spell with the new ball and then, perhaps even more conclusively by the eight overs either side of tea in which Nathan McAndrew bent his back, extracted life from this sleepy Manchester pitch and took four wickets for 24 runs, thereby ensuring that Lancashire's lead was kept to a modest 46, an advantage that Warwickshire's openers had trimmed to 42 before bad light sliced another 12 overs off our day.
McAndrew's accuracy and aggression were all the more impressive and yes, surprising given that at Taunton he had bowled 25 overs for 100 runs and had looked the least-effective member of Will Rhodes' attack. But any bowler, particularly one who has bowled mainly on antipodean pitches, will take time adjusting to English wickets. McAndrew's spell here suggested Division One batters will have to be alert this summer if they are to cope with his disciplined aggression.
Admittedly, much of the tough work had already been done by the new-ball bowlers when McAndrew took his first wicket and even that was presented to him by Phil Salt, who drove a good-length ball straight to Rhodes at mid-off. That left Lancashire on 324 for 5 at tea, a position they owed almost entirely to their centurion, Keaton Jennings, and his fellow opener, Luke Wells, who contributed 80.
On the resumption McAndrew produced a quite foul lifter which George Balderson could only glove to Sam Hain at slip. Two overs later he tempted Dane Vilas into a cut and Michael Burgess took a low catch behind the stumps. Hasan Ali then nicked off to Rob Yates at slip to complete a four-wicket haul that had demolished any Lancastrian notions that they might "bat past" their opponents so convincingly that the final day would leave Warwickshire with nothing to do except scrap for a grisly draw. Tom Bailey and Matt Parkinson put on 26 for the last wicket but a lead of 46 was thin, indeed, when set beside the advantage Vilas was hoping for when the scoreboard read 116 without loss or 241 for 1. This was Warwickshire's day.
It would be easy but fanciful to say the mid-morning dismissal of Wells had offered us a portent of the change that was to occur. To judge from his reaction it would not be surprising if the opener was still complaining about it at tea. Wells had made 70 when he appeared to drive the ball firmly into the ground on its way back to Danny Briggs. However, the bowler took the two-handed catch with little fuss and was immediately congratulated by his colleagues. To Wells' plain bemusement, the umpires' consultation ended with the appeal being upheld and the batter began what is becoming a trademark very slow walk back to the dressing-room. In fairness to Graham Lloyd and Nigel Llong, we should add that Jennings said later that he would also have given it out.
Plainly unflustered by Wells' dismissal, Jennings helped Josh Bohannon take Lancashire to lunch and by then the Lancashire opener was almost toying with the Warwickshire spinners. For whether orthodox, fine or reverse, Jennings has more sweeps in his repertoire than you might find in even the most ambitious production of Mary Poppins. He made good use of them in getting to the nineties but was four short of a century at the first interval.
Ten balls after lunch Jennings reached his century with a sweetly-driven persuasion to the cover boundary off Briggs. Someone pointed out that this was his first hundred since his 127 in last July's Roses match but the impact of that revelation was immediately softened when someone else observed that this is Jennings's first innings since that game. A torn left calf ended his cricket in 2021 and a less serious injury to his right calf prevented him appearing in Lancashire's first three matches this season.
These musings on injury and coincidence had to be brought to an end fairly rapidly, for the next half-hour of the game was dominated by Warwickshire's new-ball bowlers and slip fielders. The excellent Hannon-Dalby deserves credit for the fine ball that saw the end of Bohannon, who was pouched by Rob Yates, and Craig Miles then punished Steven Croft's fatally inquisitive prod by having him well taken by Chris Benjamin in the nether region between fifth slip and gully. A poor stroke by Jennings to a ball pushed across him by Hannon-Dalby allowed second slip Hain to join the party but since the opener had made 110 in his typically understated style, one doubts anyone in the home dressing-room was boning up on the riot act.
At that point McAndrew was brought on from the James Anderson End and the rest of the day belonged to Warwickshire in general and the New South Welshman in particular. But two other visiting cricketers can be pleased with themselves this evening: Hannon-Dalby's removal of Parkinson gave him figures of 3 for 33 from 24.3 overs and Alex Davies' cut for four off Bailey removed the possibility of him getting a pair on his return to Old Trafford. A tiny victory, perhaps, but you can bet Davies will sleep a trifle easier tonight.
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Matt Parkinson shatters Warwickshire tranquility but visitors hold on for draw
Five wickets falling between lunch and tea briefly gave Lancashire a sniff
Nathan McAndrew provides Warwickshire spark after Keaton Jennings hundred
Draw remains the favourite after hosts lose last six wickets for 65
Luke Wells, Keaton Jennings show familiar resolve to keep hosts in touch
Sibley unbeaten on 142 before Lancashire duo stage unbroken opening partnership of 127