Chopra century has Lancashire struggling again

Warwickshire 289-4 v Lancashire

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The Independent Online

Having beaten Lancashire at Liverpool rather impressively last month, Warwickshire have maintained their form emphatically enough to suggest anything less than another victory this time, assuming fair weather, will be a disappointment, especially in the light of Lancashire's starkly contrasting fortunes so far.

The 2011 champions look already to have a dwindling chance of defending their title successfully. They have not won any of their opening five matches, having won four out of five at the corresponding point of last season. More worryingly, they have already suffered only one fewer defeat than the whole of 2011 and could have another headache looming after Glen Chapple, their captain and the rock of their bowling attack, left the field complaining of a side strain.

Such statistics only unsettle Ashley Giles, however. Warwickshire's director of cricket insisted on the eve of this match that "confidence and momentum can change very quickly" and has reminded his players to follow the modern coach's mantra, forget the league table and never look beyond the next session.

He will not have been displeased, therefore, with their progress yesterday. Thinking along parallel lines with the majority of captains around the country, greeted at last with the sight of a decent batting wicket, Jim Troughton chose to bat first and has seen little to make him question the decision.

By the midpoint of the middle session, Varun Chopra and Ian Westwood had compiled the biggest opening partnership in the First Division so far and Warwickshire's best since the same pair put on 202 against Somerset on this ground last July. Westwood, who made a century on that occasion, missed the chance of another, cursing himself after edging Luke Procter to slip for 70, but Chopra made the most of his opportunity.

He was dropped on 51, edging Ajmal Shahzad to second slip and almost bowled off an inside edge by Chapple on 73, but completed his ninth first-class century from 218 balls shortly after tea and might have gone on to add a few more, after hitting 11 boundaries, had he been able to stay patient. Feeling, perhaps, that Lancashire's two spinners, Simon Kerrigan and Gary Keedy, were beginning to tie him down, he was caught at midwicket off a rather ugly heave.

Yet Lancashire, who left out both Kyle Hogg and Saj Mahmood, never did gain the upper hand, even though Warwickshire slipped from 224 for 1 to 246 for 4. Kerrigan had Will Porterfield caught at slip before Chopra holed out, and when the second new ball was taken, the threatening Shahzad extended Troughton's poor run of form by bowling him for seven. But late runs for Darren Maddy and Tim Ambrose made sure the momentum stayed with the home side.