The attention heaped on the pace bowling partnership of Chris Wright and Keith Barker tended to overshadow the role played by Warwickshire’s opening batsmen in laying the foundations for the team’s First Division title success last year. In fact, it was considerable and not to be underestimated, as they reminded those spectators with the patience to wait for some action in the rain here yesterday.
Varun Chopra and Ian Westwood strode out to the middle together 18 times in the 2012 Championship, and five times gave the innings the perfect start by putting on more than 100 together. As Westwood shook off some patchy early-season form to blossom as the title pace increased, they enjoyed one six-innings sequence that included partnerships of 100, 175 and 136.
After the fragmented action that followed a 3.30 start against Derbyshire yesterday afternoon, amounting to about an hour and 30 minutes of playing time interrupted by rain and bad light, they were well placed to begin the title defence with another, as Warwickshire closed on 90 without loss, trailing by 136.
Both finished 2012 with a Championship average in excess of 40 and Chopra was one of only four First Division batsmen to pass 1,000 first-class runs, which was a not inconsiderable feat in such a dreadfully wet summer (only Nick Compton among England-qualified batsmen bettered his aggregate) earning him a first tour of Test duty as a result.
The 25-year old right-hander, who had made 1,000 in 2011 as well, was rewarded with selection – alongside Warwickshire team-mate Wright – for the 17-man England Performance Programme squad that served as back up for the full England side in India and went on the Lions tour to Australia, where he scored two centuries in 50-over matches, the second in the first meeting with Australia A in Hobart. He is in the provisional squad for the ICC Champions Trophy too.
His understanding with the left-handed Westwood has developed to the point that they have become adept at rotating the strike, while the left-right combination is what every coach wants at the top of the order, asking more questions of the opposition bowling.
Chopra, who had an escape on 19 when an edge off Tim Groenewald fell just short of first slip, took more scoring opportunities in tricky conditions to collect nine boundaries, finishing the day on 48 not out, with Westwood on 31. However, given the amount of time left, the match seems to have nowhere to go on the final day.