Bell the centurion keeps himself in shop window
Warwickshire 403-8 Lancashire 317
Sunday 19 July 2009
It is hard enough for teams to force a result at Edgbaston even when the sun shines continuously. This week, with the equivalent of two full days lost to rain, the weather could be legitimately blamed . But there has not always been such a ready excuse, of the last 14 matches here, 12 have ended in draws.
Warwickshire are hoping to soon complete the signing of Sreesanth, the Indian fast bowler with a Brazilian penchant for going by one name, in the hope that a player known for his explosive emotions will give their attack more fire. They need some, although the pitches here, invariably flat, would challenge any bowler.
There were fireworks here yesterday, but these were real rather than metaphorical – celebratory ones set off at some nearby gathering, just before lunch. They interrupted play briefly, in that Mal Loye, the Lancashire batsman, found them distracting enough to step away from the crease a couple of times just as Rikki Clarke was running in to bowl.
Lancashire by then were an hour into their first innings after Warwickshire had declared theirs at 403 for 8, having continued just long enough for Chris Woakes, the 20-year-old seam bowler with all-rounder potential, to notch their fifth batting bonus point with his seventh boundary.
Warwickshire have collected 32 from a possible 35 batting points at Edgbaston, failing to reach 400 only once, when Durham bowled them out for 276 and Steve Harmison took five wickets. Otherwise, bowlers have struggled and batsmen have thrived, not least among them Ian Bell, who still has hopes of taking part in his third Ashes series.
Bell's 106 in this match, his second hundred of the season, took his aggregate to 455 at Edgbaston in a total of 640 for his county so far, at an average of 80.
"He is playing very well for us," said Warwickshire's director of coaching Ashley Giles, although not well enough for Giles and his fellow England selectors to give him the nod ahead of Ravi Bopara for the No 3 slot. Bell, dropped after the First Test in Jamaica in February – paying the price for England's dismissal for 51 – has been in the squad for the opening two Tests against Australia, but only as cover.
"Ian is doing everything he can do to make sure he is next in line," Giles added, "although there are other guys in front of him at the moment.
"He has been great for us. It is hard for any player when they get left out and naturally you go through a couple of weeks that you find quite tough, but he has settled back with us pretty well. He has been an excellent example to the others here, a model citizen, an excellent senior player. He gives a lot to the club.
"You could only tell in a Test match if he were at the top of his form but he is playing with a lot of confidence. All he can do is bide his time and be ready to take the opportunity, if it comes along."
Lancashire could use a Bell or two. Of their current squad, no batsman has a first-class century this season. Scoring runs has been a problem for them for a while and it is just as well their bowling attack has been as effective as the champions, Durham. Only once in their last 29 Championship matches, spanning almost two years, have they gained maximum batting points.
They had to settle for three yesterday, with a draw the only realistic outcome on one of those days when an argument for scrapping bonus points altogether might win enthusiastic support. As entertainment, it was a non-event, played out before isolated pockets of spectators. It was a wonder that anyone thought it worth watching.
As it was, the pursuit of points kept it going almost the full distance. Lancashire, for whom Mark Chilton made 85 and François du Plessis 79, might have pulled out once they had limped past 300 but stubbornly continued, although the only beneficiaries were Warwickshire, who picked up maximum bowling points as seamer Naqaash Tahir finished with 4 for 55 and Ant Botha, the spinner, with 4 for 86.
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