Since 1970, Lancashire have ended up in the bottom half of the table 17 times. During that period, they have finished in the top four on only five occasions. It is a woeful record for such a famous club. Recently, Test calls and a bowling attack not well-balanced enough for Peter Marron's hard, true pitches (though this one is getting slower and lower by the session) have been the reasons cited for the poor showings. With Michael Atherton and John Crawley both likely to miss half the matches through Test absenteeism, part of the problem remains, though the bowling is stronger and more varied than it has been for a while.
Before lunch, all seemed to be going well as Lancashire steadily increased their overnight lead to 148, largely through a protracted and often tactically baffling last-wicket partnership worth 43 between Peter Martin and Gary Keedy.
Once Warren Hegg had gone, caught at long leg hooking at Gladstone Small, and Glen Chapple was bowled for nought, Martin seemed set on shielding his less accomplished partner when he should have been intent on scoring as quickly as possible.
There then followed a turgid afternoon that was all Warwickshire, as Andy Moles and Wasim Khan put on 168 for the first wicket. Once their lead was overhauled, it looked as though Lancashire would be left removing traces of eggy material from their faces, but three quick wickets strengthened their position for tomorrow's endgame.
With little help from the pitch, Mike Watkinson, eager for a breakthrough, rotated his bowlers. But the only time the home side looked dangerous was when he operated in tandem with Keedy, both spinning the odd ball sharply enough to cause more than occasional concern to the batsmen.
In the end, it was Keedy who forced an error of judgement from Khan, who was lbw padding up to the left-armer, for a career best 78. Keedy is a 20-year-old Yorkshireman who, seeing his path blocked by Richard Stemp to the east of the Pennines, headed west instead to lend his spinning finger to the cause of the red rose. With his quick, stiff action, he looks like someone tossing a hand grenade for the first time, and more than one of his deliveries exploded out of the rough with a puff of dust.
Before the breach, none of these perturbations seemed to bother Moles, whose jovial Friar Tuck figure at the crease belies a talented batsman capable of playing all manner of innings and, between spells of hawk-like watchfulness, he readily preyed upon anything loose. But once Khan had gone, Moles made a similar error, this time to Watkinson, and Roger Twose was out, caught off Keedy soon after.
Khan's dismissal here seemed to induce the same swooning effect among his team-mates as his namesake Imran's impending betrothal has had on lustful Sloane Rangers everywhere. Under strict Islamic law, Imran is gone forever. Wasim Khan, however, will fight another day, and with a lead of 46 Warwickshire may well yet get something out of this match.Reuse content