Warwickshire 169 for 5 (Lamb 41*) trail Derbyshire 189 by 20 runs
Warwickshire are hoping to convince the government to allow 50% capacity at the Test between England and New Zealand at Edgbaston in June.
The game starts on June 10 which, under current guidelines, means just 25% occupancy of the ground will be allowed. Tickets for the game have almost sold out.
Now, however, the club has written to Oliver Dowden, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and asked for the Test to be viewed as a “validation event”. That means it would be used to demonstrate how sports stadiums could safely accommodate higher capacity once Covid protocols are lifted which, under current guidelines, will be some time from June 21.
Crucially, co-signatories of the letter include Andy Street, the major of the West Midlands, and Ian Ward, the Birmingham City Council leader. Warwickshire hope this demonstrates the region’s determination to make such an arrangement work and incorporate public transport and accommodation plans.
Warwickshire’s proposal does not require the use of vaccine passports. Instead, they have proposed a system where spectators can either demonstrate that they have had the full vaccination (that means both jabs) or have a certificate to prove they have had a negative lateral flow test from an accredited centre in the last 48 hours. They would also have the option of demonstrating that they have antibodies having recovered from the virus in recent months.
It is understood DCMS has received Warwickshire’s letter and is considering its response. The club have asked for an answer by the first week of May, at the latest, so they can organise a ballot to arrange which ticket-holders will be able to attend. The club is insured for the lost value of ticket revenue.
The absence of spectators on the second day of Warwickshire’s Championship match might have been something of a blessing in disguise. While the cricket was reasonably compelling, this was a grimly cold day with several interruptions for rain and bad light. Watching via the live feed might not have been such a bad alternative.
That cold weather may have been relevant to a key moment in the day’s play, too. Standing in the slips on days like this is little fun but, while Warwickshire caught neatly on the first day, Derbyshire put down two chances within a few balls either side of tea which may yet prove crucial. Had they been taken, it would have left Warwickshire on 141 for 7.
As it was, Tim Bresnan, dropped on 11, and Matt Lamb, dropped on 30, were able to add an unbroken 55 for the sixth wicket to help Warwickshire claw their way back into this low-scoring match.
Still, this was a performance of which Derbyshire’s young seam attack could be justifiably proud. Four of the five bowlers used have played fewer than 20 first-class games; two of them have played fewer than 10. But they showed admirable skill and persistence in harnessing conditions expertly and, with just a modicum more fortune, could have helped their side take a first-innings lead.
Rob Yates was, perhaps, the most assured of the top-order batsmen. He impressed Alastair Cook last year with his “well organised” game and calm temperament and you can see why. While he’s comfortable leaving, he is more than adept at putting away anything on his pads or overpitched and it took a good one from Sam Connors, angled across him, to draw an edge.
Sam Hain never really settled and was drawn into a loose drive against a booming outswinger from Ben Aitcheson, while Dom Sibley’s patient innings ended when he edged one angled in but leaving him off the pitch. Michael Burgess, becalmed as Derbyshire’s seamers conceded just four runs in 45 balls – at one stage there were 28 dot balls in succession – prodded at one which left him.
While both left-arm seamers, Luis Reece and Michael Cohen, finished the day wicketless, both also impressed. Reece beat the bat numerous times with his swing bowling, while Cohen, although relatively diminutive for a fast bowler, generated sharp pace and also demonstrated pleasing shape back into the right-hander. Both will bowl less well and claim wickets.
But while Bresnan and Lamb played and missed often, they generally played straight, refused to push for the ball and put away anything poorly directed. Lamb looked especially proficient square of the wicket but was fortune to see Leus du Plooy put him down when he edged one from the deserving Fynn Hudson-Prentice.
There was a boost for Warwickshire off the pitch, too. Pieter Malan has now obtained the visa he required and is expected to arrive in England before the end of the month. That means he is expected to make his Warwickshire debut on May 6. Hanuma Vihari will deputise until then.
While Warwickshire are keeping their options open in terms of playing Vihari and Malan in the same side – counties can select two overseas players per game this year – they are unlikely to do so. The club has high hopes for young batsmen such as Yates and Dan Mousley and remains committed to providing opportunities for them.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo