Nail-biting defiance by Ambrose keeps Lancashire at bay

Lancashire 189 & 380 Warwickshire 280 & 217-8 (Match drawn)
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The Independent Online

Draws in the Championship have become an occurrence some would describe as mercifully rare owing to the combination of a dry summer and the increased points value of a win, but there is still honour in the hard-fought avoidance of defeat and Warwickshire deserved every credit for keeping Lancashire at bay here yesterday, even if they did enjoy help from the weather.

A showery morning after a wet night meant only 31 balls were bowled before 1.15pm and there was another interruption in the afternoon. Nonetheless, Warwickshire still had to face 68 overs on a pitch taking spin and against arguably the best exploiter of such conditions on the circuit in Gary Keedy.

In the end it was enthrallingly close as Warwickshire, who had seemed safe at 217 for 6 entering what they thought was the last over, lost two wickets in five balls to the part-time off-spinner Steven Croft and were then told there was time within the limits of the mandatory last hour for another over.

Tim Ambrose, the former England wicketkeeper who was their saviour, ultimately, with an unbeaten 66, can seldom have been confronted with eight close fielders as well as his opposite number as Keedy wheeled in.

But after two blocks, a sweep, a rejected lbw appeal, a leg-side leave and another soft-handed dead bat, it was all over and Ambrose, after two hours and 17 minutes, had survived.

The draw, then, was well deserved, the more so because Warwickshire had been in no way negative, at least until it was perfectly reasonable to be so. At the start, when they potentially had 75 overs to chase 290 to win the match themselves, they sent in Neil Carter, their one-day opener, to take on the new ball, and he and Varun Chopra cracked on with intent.

But after rattling along at almost five an over without giving Lancashire a sniff, their ambitions were curtailed when they lost four wickets for 20 runs in seven overs, including Chopra off an uncharacteristically ugly slash.

That it took Lancashire 27 more overs to make further inroads was down to Ambrose and Laurie Evans, who showed exceptional concentration for almost two hours before edging Kyle Hogg to second slip. Six overs remained when Rikki Clarke became Keedy's third victim at 210 for 6, but Ambrose kept his nerve and his side the draw.