Warwickshire make most of good fortune
Varun Chopra and Shivnarine Chanderpaul compiled centuries as Warwickshire took a big step towards claiming the LV= County Championship title at the Rose Bowl, with the aid of some sloppy Hampshire fielding.
The Division One leaders, who went into the final round of fixtures with a slender three-point advantage over Lancashire, profited from five dropped catches as, after choosing to bat first, they ended day one on 296 for three.
Will Porterfield was reprieved on three occasions in his innings of 28, yet it was Michael Carberry’s failure to accept chances off both Chopra and Chanderpaul that proved most costly.
Chopra was put down on two when he edged the luckless James Tomlinson to Carberry’s left at third slip, while Chanderpaul survived after nicking Sean Ervine straight to first slip in the closing stages of the afternoon session.
The duo went on to share 188 for the third wicket to put their side firmly on course for a sizeable first-innings score and a healthy haul of batting bonus points.
Chopra fell to Dimitri Mascarenhas for 109 shortly before the close, but the vastly-experienced Chanderpaul reached stumps unbeaten on 107, having compiled his third hundred in five championship outings this term.
While Warwickshire are sure to be satisfied with their own performance, together with the struggles of nearest rivals Lancashire and Durham today, Hampshire, 17 points adrift of safety at the beginning of this match, appear to have moved a step closer to Division Two.
After heavy overnight rain had delayed the start by half an hour, Warwickshire were fortunate to make it through to lunch only one wicket down as Tomlinson caused no end of problems from the Northern End.
Following Chopra’s early let-off, the left-arm seamer made the breakthrough in the sixth over when Ian Westwood’s uncertain prod provided James Vince with a catch in the gully.
Vince then spilled a sharp one-handed chance offered by Porterfield and the Ireland captain also survived a strong appeal for a catch down the leg side off Tomlinson, who ended his opening seven-over spell with figures of 1-9.
Porterfield was dropped again on one when another left-armer, Chris Wood, failed to take a low return catch, but he eventually collected his first four with a sweetly-timed straight drive off the same bowler.
By this stage, Chopra had settled into his stride and the former Essex batsman moved on to 32 at lunch with the aid of five off-side fours.
Porterfield received yet another let-off in the third over of the afternoon session as Liam Dawson put down a head-high chance at second slip off Tomlinson.
The left-hander was unable to take advantage, however, and departed moments later when Mascarenhas trapped him plumb in front.
Chanderpaul endured a nervy start against Tomlinson, but soon settled in alongside Chopra as conditions became increasingly comfortable for the batsmen.
While Warwickshire’s leading run-scorer in the championship retained a largely watchful approach, Chanderpaul, a batsman renowned for his obduracy, appeared keen to attack and advanced down the track to loft a Danny Briggs full toss over the bowler’s head for six.
Having seen Carberry fluff the simplest of chances shortly before tea, Chanderpaul duly brought up his half-century in the evening session.
Briggs, 17 years Chanderpaul's junior, came in for further punishment as the West Indian, using his feet superbly, thumped him down the ground for four before striking two more straight boundaries from successive balls, the latter another six.
A glorious back cut off Wood took Chopra to 95. Soon after, he was celebrating a first championship hundred since April, from 234 balls.
Chanderpaul appeared in a hurry to emulate his partner’s feat and a succession of attractive shots for four, including three dismissive pulls, helped him to three figures from just 157 deliveries, although he was content to defend thereafter.
Hampshire did at least manage another breakthrough prior to the close as Chopra was bowled through the gate by Mascarenhas, but they now face an uphill battle if they are to secure a much-needed win.
Warwickshire captain Jim Troughton accompanied Chanderpaul through to the close and will begin day two with eight to his name.