County Cricket Season is finally here!
On an overcast, chilly Monday morning, Warwickshire managed to stop the rot of defeats with some mature batting which forced Gareth Batty to reluctantly shake hands with Ian Bell on a draw. Surrey will be disappointed to have only taken 4 wickets in the day but remain unbeaten this term and top of the early season Specsavers County Championship Division 1 table.
Beginning the day on 162/4 with a lead of only 57, Warwickshire fans may have been forgiven for fearing the worst with a new ball due before lunch. Not for the first time though, it was Ian Bell who eased thenerves – well supported by Tim Ambrose – as he made use of the short boundary, taking advantage of anything short or wide from the surprisingly off-colour Curran brothers. One of Surrey’s misgivings last term was the slow adaptation they made to Division 1 cricket and perhaps it was the quality of cricket that surprised them and the regular battles with cricketing maestros of which Ian Bell can certainly count himself a part of. The ex-England international put his poor form behind him and looked right at home in the County Championship environment, moving quickly from his overnight score of 68 not out to what looked to be a certain hundred. However, Surrey possess a wily cricketer themselves in Gareth Batty who managed to find the edge of his bat with the first ball of the 73rd over, Ben Foakes taking it comfortably.
With their captain gone and the score on 222/5, the Bears needed to show some character and it was the experienced Tim Ambrose who provided it with some lovely shots off the middle of the bat. The experienced wicketkeeper moved to his half century off 92 balls with his eighth boundary of the innings as he and Rikki Clarke formed a partnership and took Warwickshire to an early lunch at 280/5 with the Birmingham clouds Rikki Clarke seemed to be supporting him well but edged to Scott Borthwick at gully off the bowling of Tom Curran who had begun to find some rhythm. Indeed when 302-6 became 303-7 in the young seamers next over, it looked for a while as if there might be a chance of a result. Tim Ambrose, who had been dropped by Kumar Sangakkara on 74 not out, gave the Sri Lankan legend a second chance which he was never going to pass up just 15 runs short of his half century.
Perhaps Warwickshire had heeded Ashley Giles words about fronting up and scrapping because from this perilous position, they managed to find their way to the 400 mark for the first time this season. Keith Barker was their saviour-in-chief who reached an impressive third half century in three Championship games before the end of the day and his unbroken partnership with Chris Wright of 91 steered the Bears to a much needed draw after Jeetan Patel had been trapped leg before on 20 by Tom Curran just before tea which was enough to convince Surrey to take it to an evening session.
It wasn’t enough for Batty’s men though who may feel slightly disappointed with their bowling display, taking only 4 wickets on the day and this may be one of those that comes back to haunt them in the hunt for the title.
For Warwickshire though, first team coach reflected in an interview with the BBC that, ‘It was a much-improved performance. It was good to see the guys bat well. Sometimes you just need to relax that little bit. The way Ian Bell and Tim Ambrose batted was a good example of that.’ The Bears will feel better to have put their run of defeats behind them and will be hopeful of taking their batting form from this game to the turning pitch of Taunton when the Championship resumes at the end of May.