Brown breaks Essex

Essex 328 and 219 Warwickshire 513 and 35-0 Warwicks won by 10 wickets
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The Independent Online
THIS was Warwickshire's first Championship victory at Valentine's Park in their seventh visit, although overcoming that particular hurdle still leaves them 19 points adrift of Northamptonshire, who did not have a game.

Time was when this primitive Ilford ground was a banker for Essex, but whereas the home side would normally have been mortified to pick up anything less than full points here, it was the visitors who went away with a full complement, after thrashing the home side by 10 wickets.

To have had any chance of getting back into this game, Essex, whose spinners had not done themselves justice on the Friday, needed to bowl Warwickshire out within an hour of the start. They bowled far too short to make the most of the slow turn and bounce, and just to rub it in, the visitors added 167 runs at a brisk rate before eventually being bowled out in the early afternoon.

Warwickshire, who began the day marginally ahead at 346 for six, owed much of their eventual lead not to their overnight centurion, Trevor Penney, but to their aggressively accomplished No 8, Dougie Brown, who took control once Penney had departed for 141.

With an impressive range of strokes, Brown, a 25-year-old Scot, took runs with assured ease off spin and seam alike, and seemed completely untroubled by a pitch criticised by many for being too dry. The ball certainly gripped, but generally without undue alarm, and although there was some occasional lift for the fast bowlers, especially with the second new ball, Brown deftly swept, drove, and cut anything slightly wanting in length, and Essex provided plenty of that.

In Mark Ilott's first over of the morning, which went for 12, Brown three times struck the Essex opening bowler for leg-side boundaries. Not to be outdone, Ilott immediately struck back to remove Neil Smith for a duck, caught head-high, by Nasser Hussain at first slip.

Had he whipped out the tail, the damage limitation might have been just slightly more digestible than the players' lunches. Instead, Brown and Allan Donald added 90 for the ninth wicket, and despite Brown's dismissal on the stroke of lunch for a career-best 85, the normally missable marquee fare must provided welcome relief for the home side's queasiness.

After the break, Mark Waugh promptly removed Donald, following a sharp catch at extra cover by Paul Prichard. The light roller followed, as did Essex, their second innings starting some 185 runs in arrears, but its ministrations did little to draw the sting from Donald's new-ball burst and he promptly removed Graham Gooch, the batsman edging a full-length ball to Dermot Reeve at first slip.

This ground, despite reputedly being built upon a rubbish dump, has, over the years, produced many of Essex's finest players. In this game alone, Gooch, Hussain, and Robert Rollins have all played their club cricket here, and it was Hussain, no doubt helped by local knowledge, who again played the major innings for his team.

Of his colleagues, only Mark Waugh sparkled before being brilliantly caught by Roger Twose at short-midwicket to give Smith the first of his five wickets. The Warwickshire off-spinner is not in Peter Such's class as a match-winner, but he kept a consistently fuller length than his Essex counterpart, something that contributed to Prichard's demise as he popped one up to short-leg.

However, once their captain had gone, a flurry of wickets, including Hussain, bowled by Tim Munton for 59, sealed Essex's fate, as Warwickshire claimed the extra half-hour. Needing 35 to win, the Warwickshire openers took just 27 balls to finish off their opponents, who have now lost seven games and even more self-esteem.