Warwickshire make dominant start to Bob Willis Trophy final as they blitz Lancashire batsmen

·3-min read
Bob Willis Trophy final descends into farce as Warwickshire bowl out Lancashire for 78 - GETTY IMAGES
Bob Willis Trophy final descends into farce as Warwickshire bowl out Lancashire for 78 - GETTY IMAGES

A first-class game of cricket at the end of the season, with little or nothing riding on it, was the traditional way to bow out.

A festival of spin and carefree hitting, at Hastings or Blackpool or Scarborough, before the final curtain. The Bob Willis Trophy final has so far proved to be more of the modern same: another September seam-fest. Lancashire, sent in by champions Warwickshire at 10.30am, were soon 12 for six as the ball seamed all over Lord’s, and dismissed in only 27.5 overs for 78.

Such a fixture does wonders for the figures of opening bowlers. Liam Norwell, from the pavilion end, took a couple of cheap wickets to give him 51 for this first-class season; and Craig Miles, on a fullish length from the Nursery, helped himself to five, giving him 42.

Both jagged the ball up and down the slope, while even Warwickshire’s debutant Manraj Johal, not yet 20, bowled some unplayable deliveries. The balance between bat and ball – or, more specifically, batsmen and seamers – was just about all right in the first half of this season, but in September it has been all askew, except for Glamorgan’s non-event at the Oval. And it has to be altered, if red-ball cricket in England and Wales is not to become one-dimensional, slower than ever in over-rate, and devoid of spin.

Not only is the Dukes ball swinging as much as ever. Pace bowlers are upskilling, too, as another factor which has made batting ever more awkward. Swing can be anticipated but it is impossible to react to seam movement at 80mph or more, on a length, as Lancashire’s batsmen proceeded to illustrate. Alex Davies, in his last match for Lancashire before leaving for Edgbaston, might have noticed that Warwickshire wicketkeeper Michael Burgess dropped a catch – George Balderson glancing down the leg side – but any satisfaction would not have lasted long.

Davies was himself out to what would have been a simple bat-pad catch had there been a short leg, but the bowler himself caught it with an outstanding sprint and sprawl. Miles tends to come up with exceptional feats. It was a procession, in which Josh Bohannon briefly refused to take part. If batsmen were not edging, they were being rapped on the pads or gloves, or beaten all ends up.

The days of wrist-spin in fixtures like North v South at Scarborough were a world away. There was no Lancastrian relief after Norwell and Miles because Warwickshire introduced a home product, the Birmingham-born Johal. One of the best features of Warwickshire’s season, in addition to the championship title, is how they have turned on their own supply again, most notably so far their opening batsman Rob Yates.

Johal quickly worked up a head of steam, either side of a rain break and lunch, to generate surprising bounce and take three wickets. If he tended to angle the ball in, so did the Warwickshire bowler after whom this final is named, Bob Willis. Luke Wood, left-handed, played some forthright flicks and drives to take Lancashire past their all-time low of 25 but there was not much else by way of counterattack until Warwickshire batted in the afternoon.

Yates and Dom Sibley rotated the strike briskly, and had more luck with the edges and with the umpiring (Yates looked plumb when 47), while Lancashire’s bowlers – perhaps trying too hard to redeem – were, if not miles less accurate, then less accurate than Miles.

The only answer would seem to lie in the seams. Reduce the amount of thread in the ball’s six seams and therefore of lateral movement.

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