MATT PARKINSON took three wickets in a dramatic afternoon session but some resolute defensive batting by Chris Benjamin and Danny Briggs ensured that Warwickshire drew their LV= Insurance County Championship match against Lancashire at Emirates Old Trafford.
Benjamin was 22 not out, Briggs was unbeaten on 28 and their unbroken seventh-wicket stand was worth 46 invaluable runs when the players shook hands with Warwickshire’s lead on 138 and only 19 overs left in the match. The visitors ended the match on 184 for six and Parkinson finished with three for 64 from 34 overs.
Yet none of this tension had seemed likely during a morning session in which the only wicket to fall was that of Alex Davies, who had made 10 when he received a nasty lifter in the third over of the morning and gloved a catch to Keaton Jennings at second slip. Otherwise there were few alarms for the batsmen during the opening two hours, unless one counts the nasty blow in the box that Dominic Sibley received from a ball bowled by Luke Wood.
At lunch Warwickshire were 85 for one and a draw was becoming increasingly probable. However, the fall of two wickets in the first hour of the afternoon session put the outcome in doubt. Having made 41 to go with his unbeaten 142 in the first innings, Sibley edged an excellent leg-spinner from Parkinson to Phil Salt behind the stumps. Less than seven overs later Sam Hain was leg before to the sort of Hassan Ali yorker that is clearly the Pakistani bowler’s speciality.
Yates reached his first fifty of the season with a cover drive off Luke Wood but his pleasure was brief. Four overs later the Warwickshire batsman was bowled for 55 by one from Wood that both nipped back and kept low, thereby giving him no price at all. That left the visitors on 132 for four and their lead of 86 runs was plainly inadequate.
And things got worse a quarter of an hour late when Will Rhodes ticked a leg-spinner from Parkinson to Jennings at leg-slip. The Bears skipper has now scored 73 runs in six Championship innings this season. In Parkinson’s next over Michael Burgess could make nothing of a classic leg-spinner and was bowled for nought.
Now the game was properly in the hazard. At tea Warwickshire were 144 for six and had a lead of 98. Everything hinged on whether the Bears’ last four wickets could last long enough into the evening session to ensure that Lancashire’s batsmen could not reach their victory target.
On the resumption Vilas entrusted the task of making further breakthroughs to the pace of Hassan and the spin of Parkinson but Benjamin and Briggs held firm. Before long, runs were also coming at decent lick and Briggs was even able to cut and drive successive boundaries off Hassan.
Indeed the most dramatic event to take place in the evening session was the unexplained shattering of one of the massive windows in the Old Trafford press box. The attendant bang attracted the players’ attention and caused the covers to be moved but nothing broke the concentration of Benjamin and Burgess.
Lancashire took 14 points from the match and are now 17 behind the Division One leaders Surrey with a game in hand. Warwickshire took 13 points and are 39 shy of the early-season pacesetters, although they, too, have played one game fewer.
Warwickshire head coach Mark Robinson said: “We’re pleased because we showed a lot of character. We didn’t quite get the toss right, it was a real 50-50 one , neither team knew what to do.
“Dom Sibley batted outstandingly well to get us to a score that was competitive but we were looking down the barrel when they were 127 without loss going into the third day.
“Then Will Rhodes led the team exceptionally well and the bowlers responded brilliantly, backed up by the fielders. Today it looked as though things were calmer but then we had a little flurry of wickets and we needed Chris Benjamin and Danny Briggs to settle things down again.
“We’re going home, happy with the points and the character we showed in the match.”