Cricket: Rollins fights back

Warwickshire 315 & 15-0 Derbyshire 286
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The Independent Online
THE WARWICKSHIRE bowlers stuck to their task yesterday, trying to gain a little advantage in a somewhat sluggish contest, while a succession of batsmen have dazzled all too briefly. There are no devils hiding in the Edgbaston pitch, but there is seemingly no end of ways a batsman, apparently well set, can find to get himself out.

Trevor Penney, an almost total stranger to the wicket-keeping gauntlets, was given the first two stumpings of his career, for example. The Warwickshire first-choice keeper, Keith Piper, is resting a thumb carelessly bruised in warming up for this match, while his deputy Tony Frost has a dodgy back. It lasted 25 overs before Frost creaked off towards the physio's couch.

Just as the richly-talented Anurag Singh had brightened the first day with a brisk 58, so Ben Spendlove shone yesterday afternoon before becoming Penney's first-ever victim. On a day otherwise short of drama his 63 came at a run a ball, with nine fours and a brace of muscular sixes. This was the first half-century for a promising 20-year-old.

When Derbyshire set off in pursuit of the hosts' 315 it looked at first to be Michael Slater's day. He is a short man who reduces his height further by crouching into the ball, but when he unfurls those wristy flourishes and short-arm jabs to the boundary, it is hard to credit that Australia can manage a World Cup without him. In the winter he made five Test centuries on three continents, but the end came too soon yesterday. Graeme Welch got one to pop sharply, and the ball looped mockingly to gully.

Adrian Rollins, tall, burly and very powerful, took over. He has started the season impressively - in between the showers three Championship innings prior to this match have produced 183 runs for once out. He added 51 more before Ed Giddins, bowling off a short run and swerving the ball both ways, induced a slash to slip. Spendlove then had his entertaining turn, ably supported in a stand of 81 by Stephen Titchard.

The tall left-arm spinner Ashley Giles, briefly an England player, was the most persistent and probing member of Warwickshire's attack. He persuaded the occasional ball to spit from the otherwise harmless pitch to earn his four wickets. The home side's slim advantage was confirmed when the bustling Tim Munton returned to hustle out Derby's last man, Trevor Smith, denying the visitors a third batting point and carrying a 29-run lead into the second innings. Warwickshire then survived two overs in the gloaming.