Woakes helps Bears to claw their way to top

Warwickshire 201 & 461-8dec Worcestershire 375 & 199 (Warwickshire win by 88 runs)
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The Independent Online

Given that Worcestershire are expected to be the whipping boys of Division One, the merits of a win here might have to be taken in context. But Warwickshire's victory by 88 runs yesterday could be admired for two sound reasons.

First, they achieved it from a difficult position in the match, having conceded a lead of 174 on first innings. Varun Chopra's second double-century of the season turned the contest on its head but captain Jim Troughton had to time his declaration carefully so Worcestershire would not be tempted to shut up shop.

Second, they at least diluted, if not disproved, the theory that their stunning win over title favourites Somerset in the opening round of games was not a freak. Apart from Chopra, they can point to another high-class performance from Chris Woakes, their 22-year-old all-rounder, who hit 129 and took 6 for 85 at Taunton and followed up with 6 for 49 yesterday as Worcestershire, chasing 288 from a minimum of 75 overs were all out for 199.

An up-and-down pitch was always likely to make life hazardous for the batsmen but Woakes exploited the conditions superbly. The deliveries he found for Daryl Mitchell and Vikram Solanki were too good, the inswinger in the first instance resulting in a bat-pad catch that was well taken at short leg before Solanki, who had just picked up a couple of confident boundaries, had no answer to one that swung away late, edging it to first slip.

Accounting for James Cameron too as Worcestershire failed to lay the necessary foundations for the chase, Woakes ended his first spell with 3 for 23 from 12 overs, coming back with a further 3 for 16 in eight to mop up most of the tail before Boyd Rankin completed the job with more than an hour left.

In between, Ant Botha, the left-arm spinner, had made a couple of important contributions, taking a return catch from an indecisive Moeen Ali drive, then celebrating loudly after Alexei Kervezee, the only batsman to offer any serious threat, was superbly caught at cover off a leading edge for 65.

The result means that Warwickshire, who will have Ian Bell and Jonathan Trott available for three matches next month, are level with Lancashire at the top of Division One after two games – the big plus for them having been the outstanding form shown by Chopra, who wrote himself into the record books with his career-best 228 here, having composed the first double-hundred of his career to set up the win over Somerset.

The 23-year-old former Essex opener is the first batsman in Warwickshire's history to score double-centuries in back-to-back matches, which is a fair distinction considering that the county numbers the likes of Alvin Kallicharran, Rohan Kanhai and Brian Lara among its former players.

Chopra has already exceeded his total runs for the whole of last season, although an aggregate of just 409 from 18 innings in 2010 should not necessarily be taken to indicate a poor year by the former England Under-19 captain.

Having moved away from Chelmsford during the preceding winter, he had not properly settled into a struggling Warwickshire team when a broken hand put him out of action for several weeks. On his return he began to slow glimpses of his true quality, especially in a match-winning 76 against Yorkshire in the Clydesdale Bank 40 semi-final.

After such a productive start – he has 496 runs in the bank already – Chopra has a chance to become the first batsman since Graeme Hick in 1988 to score 1,000 first-class runs before the end of May, with potentially 10 more chances available to him.