Warwickshire 188 (Sibley 92*, Edwards 5-49) and 0 for 0 lead Hampshire 116 (Bailey 55, Hannon-Dalby 4-29) by 72 runs
After the washout on day one, the sun was warm enough for shirt sleeves at the Birmingham End, spectators settling into their favoured seats, willing the summer to last a little longer. Out in the middle, Warwickshire had the air of a team that could not wait for it to end.
They are already relegated and sometimes in such circumstances the appetite for a fight can be a little diminished. At 28 for 5, a wretched year looked to be reaching an appropriate conclusion. By the close of a dramatic day in which 20 wickets fell, the picture would look somewhat different, with Hampshire in danger of joining them. At that moment, though, it all looked depressingly familiar.
The senior batsmen, Jonathan Trott and Ian Bell, had both fallen without scoring to Kyle Abbott, the latter offering no stroke to a ball that came back to rattle his off stump. He looked back briefly to assess the damage and you supposed he was wondering how it could have happened. On the other hand, it might have crossed his mind that such misjudgements are no longer such a rarity. He has been out for no runs four times this season and, unless he can rectify matters in the second innings here, this will be the first English season since 2002 that has not witnessed a Bell century.
Hampshire might have been equally keen to fast forward to Thursday but for the matter of needing to ensure they do not go down with Warwickshire. The combination of their defeat by Essex at the Ageas Bowl and Middlesex’s win over Lancashire had left them vulnerable, needing 12 points to guarantee they would finish ahead of Somerset.
In that regard, the enforced day off had been kind to them. Somerset’s solitary batting point against Middlesex had cut the requirement to eight. Abbott suddenly went down in a heap, having gone over on his ankle in his delivery stride, courtesy of a damp foot mark. But then Fidel Edwards, working up a good pace at the Pavilion End, removed Matt Lamb and Tim Ambrose in quick succession, prompting groans among the sun worshippers.
Warwickshire have some problems to address over the winter but they may have found the answer to one in Dominic Sibley, whose decision to leave The Oval last month left Surrey “bitterly disappointed” and with good reason.
At 22, he is a batsman of rich promise, clearly, as he demonstrated, of course, in only his third first-class match in 2013 with that double-hundred against Yorkshire, having only just turned 18. He wanted an assurance from Surrey that he would play in the top order in all forms of the game but Alec Stewart, director of cricket at The Oval, was not prepared to give him that.
Warwickshire have not said that he has such a guarantee in place now but after watching him carry his bat for 92 here, following two previous half-centuries in a position they have struggled to fill, his preference is not likely to meet any resistance in the immediate future.
There was a maturity about him that Ashley Giles believes can be the foundation for a solid career, perhaps one in which he can aspire to an England place. His approach was always positive but only when he began to run out of partners did he begin to take risks.
It was a shame for him that there was a moment of controversy towards the end, when he declined to take the word of Hampshire’s captain, George Bailey, over the legitimacy of a catch on the boundary off Mason Crane that would have seen him gone for 84.
It was one of those that would have been settled by a third umpire had it happened in a televised match, Bailey sensing his momentum would carry him over the boundary after a running leap for the ball at long-off and opting to flick it back into the air one-handed. He then caught it cleanly with both hands but then there was the matter of where his landing foot was at the moment of the first contact.
Jeff Evans, the standing umpire, turned towards his colleague at square leg and shrugged as Bailey claimed the catch and his Hampshire players ran to congratulate him. In the absence of an adjudicator, though, there was no way of removing the doubt and Sibley stayed, with six runs added to his score. Pointedly, as he took the applause of the home dressing room at the close of the innings, few of the Hampshire players joined in.
There had been good support from Alex Thomson – a Staffordshire batsman looking to earn a contract at Edgbaston – and Chris Wright in bulking the total up a little. Hampshire have their three bowling points, though. Abbott had recovered from his mishap and Edwards, with 5 for 49, walked off with a swagger after dismissing nine, 10 and 11.
Yet this apparent position of strength proved to be no such thing. On a pitch that was offering something to the spinners and seamers alike, the excellence of Sibley’s performance was only enhanced as Hampshire were dismissed for 116 in 34.2 overs of quite unexpected carnage in which only Bailey, ironically, could come anywhere near to matching him.
His 55 off 57 balls, which ended with a thin edge to Ambrose off a superb ball by Oliver Hannon-Dalby, was the only score above 16. Hannon-Dalby, called up for his first Championship match since April in place of Boyd Rankin, finished with 4 for 29 – his best figures for seven years. Jeetan Patel took 3 for 19, ominously, on a surface that, from his point of view, is likely only to get better.
The upshot is that to stay up Hampshire must leave here with at least a draw or bank on Somerset failing to beat Middlesex at Taunton.