Chopra rediscovers his touch at just the right time for leaders

Warwickshire 296-3 Hampshire

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The Independent Online

One after another, Warwickshire's players have stepped forward this season to accept responsibility. And yesterday, having fretted in the shadows for the best part of five months, Varun Chopra decided it was high time he took centre stage in a Championship production that looks increasingly likely to scoop the top award.

Chopra, the former England Under-19 opener, began this campaign like a man possessed, scoring two double centuries in his first three innings. Since then, though, he has not done much more than play bit parts, reaching 50 only four further times, in 23 innings, while averaging 27 between late April and early September.

Last week, it was Ian Westwood and Jim Troughton who emerged from lean trots to score hundreds against Nottinghamshire. This time, Chopra did the business by reaching three figures and sharing in a mighty third-wicket stand of 188 with another, entirely predictable century-maker, Shiv Chanderpaul, to strengthen Warwickshire's grip on a title that will be theirs – regardless of what happens elsewhere this week – if they beat Hampshire and shed no more than two bonus points.

The Bears may not drop much at all on the evidence of events so far. Hampshire, needing a big win of their own to have any chance of avoiding relegation, were looking increasingly forlorn by last night. And no wonder, really, after five catches were spilt yesterday – three of them during an error-strewn morning session when Warwickshire's bold decision to bat in cloudy, humid conditions could have backfired.

The three "lives" given to William Porterfield did not cost the home side too much, in terms of runs, with the Ireland international making only 28. But the failure of slip fielder Michael Carberry to cling on to an awkward two-hander, when Chopra had made just two, and his dreadful miss to reprieve Chanderpaul on 36, were the stuff of nightmares.

Carberry had to wait a long time for a little relief – Dimitri Mascarenhas wisely taking his colleagues out of the equation by bowling Chopra, between bat and pad, for 109.

Warwickshire's policy all season has been to bat big, whenever possible, and not worry too much about the scoring rate. And it has worked, too, with four of their nine victories coming by an innings. Chanderpaul, having taken 157 balls over the 59th first-class century of his career, perhaps overdid the patience by adding four more runs from the next 40 deliveries. Like Warwickshire, though, he is interested only in the end result.