Lancashire are the last Specsavers County Championship visitors of the season to Edgbaston, the teams ready to unfurl another chapter in the long rivalry between them. It is a colourful history, full of drama starring the likes of Ashley Giles, Mark Wagh, Steve Perryman and Rohan Kanhai.
Brian Halford reports.
Lancashire director of cricket Ashley Giles will arrive at Edgbaston this week determined to steer the Red Rose to victory at Warwickshire's expense.
Never mind that Giles is a Bears legend, having played in and coached county championship-winning teams at Edgbaston, and that he still has many friends at the club. Giles is a true professional and, right now, that professionalism is 100 per cent behind Lancashire.
But Warwickshire v Lancashire at Edgbaston is a fixture with extra special resonance for 'Gilo.' It was in that game in 1996 that, as an emerging 23-year-old all-rounder, he scored his maiden-century.
The Bears batted first and were in trouble at 196 for seven when Giles went in at number nine to join Mickey Burns at the crease. Burns started a recovery with 61 and, after he fell, Giles advanced to his maiden ton - an unbeaten 106 - with 16 fours and a six to lift the total to 386.
His work was far from done. He then purveyed 48.4 overs of left-arm spin (for four for 165) as Lancashire replied with 597 (Neil Fairbrother 204, Graham Lloyd 117) to sentence the match to a draw.
Warwickshire batted out the match for 359 for six (Nick Knight 103, Trevor Penney 70 not out) and the game petered out but it had provided early evidence of the burgeoning all-round talent which was to bring Giles 54 Test match appearances for England, 5,346 first-class runs and 539 wickets in a career sadly truncated by a hip injury.
The Lancashire team of the 1970s possessed a batting order with heaps of quality and international experience but when they arrived at Edgbaston in 1977 that order was unpicked by a the brilliance of a young seamer from Yardley.
A Brummie through and through, Steve Perryman dreamed, as a boy, of playing for Warwickshire. For him, the dream came true - and his skills as a medium-pace swing bowler were at their most lethal in the mid '70s.
On the first day of Lancashire's visit to Edgbaston in 1977, the Red Rose was rattled out for 112 as Perryman harvested 17.4-7-36-6. Only Frank Hayes, with 47, defied for long as Perryman's accuracy and variations drew comparison, not for the first time, with the great Tom Cartwright.
Perryman's excellence was then put into perspective as a Lancashire attack led by Colin Croft struggled on a flat pitch and the Bears piled up 432, thanks principally to Alvin Kallicharran's glittering 176, which included 116 in fours.
Second time around, Lancashire struggled again, this time against David Brown (five for 51). Despite Jack Simmons' dogged unbeaten 42, the visitors were dismissed for 194 and the Bears recorded a resounding win by an innings and 126 runs. The catalyst for the victory; the skills of 22-year-old Perryman who would finish the season as Warwickshire's top wicket-taker with 69 wickets at 25.86 apiece.
Those people who believe that the leg-bye is a pointless item, a carbuncle on the face of cricket and a ridiculous device whereby the batting side is rewarded when a batsman has failed to lay bat on ball, can point to the championship match between Warwickshire and Lancashire at Edgbaston in 1971 as Exhibit A in their case.
Lancashire won a wonderful match of thrust and counter-thrust by one wicket from the very last ball - courtesy of a leg-bye.
It was a cracking game as relatively low-scoring matches so often are. In a rain-affected first two days, the Bears made 252 for eight (Rohan Kanhai 95) and Lancashire replied with 248 (Jack Simmons 74 not out, Lance Gibbs six for 70).
A superb unbeaten 101 from MJK Smith in tricky conditions then enabled his side to declare their second innings at 182 for six, leaving the Red Rose a victory target of 187 in 130 minutes. Harry Pilling's elegant 71 lifted Lancashire to a promising 131 for three but the Bears hit back and reduced their opponents to 175 for eight.
It came down to ten runs needed from the last over, from Gibbs. After Ken Shuttleworth hit a six, there was a bit of thrashing and missing and Jackie Bond was run out and it came down to one off the last ball. Shuttleworth swung and missed but the ball deflected off his pads, Ken Goodwin was off like the clappers from the non-striker's end and a fine match full of skill and sophistication and subtlety and strategy was ultimately decided by a leg-bye.
Lancashire's visit to Warwickshire in 2004 brought a touch of history as the first ever County Championship match played at Stratford-upon-Avon.
Unfortunately, it was not an occasion overly blessed by good fortune. The match took place in mid-June - and it hailed!
The Bears took adroitly to championship cricket at Stratford on the opening day which they closed on 495 for nine. Short boundaries, a good batting track and a weakened Lancashire attack were hungrily exploited by Mark Wagh (167), Brad Hogg (56), Jonathan Trott (54), Nick Knight (53) and Ian Bell (49).
Lancashire then replied with 508 though, more than enough to kill the game, even without a third day which brought stoppages from bitterly cold weather in the heart of summer including, incredibly, a hailstorm which left the outfield carpeted in white.
To Neil Carter fell the honour of taking the first championship wicket by a Warwickshire player at Stratford, but wickets had to be hard-earned. Bell, then a useful medium-pace option, delivered 18-1-66-2 and there were also two wickets apiece for Carter, Dewald Pretorius and Naqaash Tahir.
As the match died quietly on the fourth day the Bears made 124 for two (Knight 67 not out) second time round before the first - and second-last - county championship match at Stratford was put to bed.