Warwickshire have been a team with two identities this season: the one with five wins from six matches in the 40-over competition that also made a winning start in Twenty20 on Thursday evening; and the one beaten four times already in the Championship, spared a fifth defeat against Durham last week only because rain washed out the last day. Not surprisingly, the Birmingham crowd wondered which would turn up yesterday. When Somerset won the toss and decided to bat first under a cloudless sky and with the mercury rising nicely, their trepidation was understandable.
But coach Ashley Giles has faith in his players and the inclusion of Boyd Rankin in his seam attack in place of the left-armer Keith Barker was the only change. In the event, bowling out Somerset for 268 looked a decent effort, although its true worth will not be known until it is set against Warwickshire's reply – and they lost one wicket having faced only 16 balls at the close.
Scoring runs has been Warwickshire's problem, rather than the effectiveness of their bowling. Even with Ian Bell and Jonathan Trott available, they have struggled to post substantial scores, and the two key men are with England now. In fact, their bowlers performed admirably, making good use of a pitch with plenty of bounce. If Warwickshire had fielded a bit better, Somerset would have scored fewer still but there were five catches of varying difficulty put down.
Richard Johnson, again preferred to former England gloveman Tim Ambrose behind the stumps, dropped one, off the left-arm spin of Ant Botha, when Peter Trego was on 14. He probably should have stumped Craig Kiewswetter, too, off the same bowler.
Those two misses alone cost 44 runs, although it would be unfair to be too critical of a 21-year-old wicketkeeper in only his fourth first-class match. Warwickshire's captain Ian Westwood would have been within his rights to look daggers at Varun Chopra when he put Marcus Trescothick down at short mid-wicket on 32, however, and likewise at second slip Rikki Clarke for letting Zander de Bruyn escape on 12.
But Somerset, generally, had to work hard for their runs, not least in a testing morning session in which Chris Woakes and Andy Miller bowled straight and with a bit of zip. It was Clarke, the fifth bowler used, who reaped the dividends, taking three wickets in the space of 26 balls, at a cost of only three runs.
The first of these was Arul Suppiah, who took a blow on the helmet from Rankin and was put out of his misery after spending 96 minutes making two, gloving a catch to Johnson. Jos Buttler fended to third slip and Trescothick, unexpectedly indecisive after hitting nine fours in his 53, was caught at second slip.
Woakes was rewarded with an inswinger to De Bruyn, before a sustained spell of spin between tea and the new ball, taken in the 87th over, accounted for four further wickets.