Cairns provides finishing touch

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The Independent Online
Nottinghamshire 230-6

Warwickshire 224

(Nottinghamshire win by six runs)

The theory that Warwickshire will vanish without trace in Brian Lara's absence, reinforced by their defeat by an innings against England A last week, will not be diluted by this result. Having reached a position from which, last season, defeat would have been almost unthinkable, the treble winners began their defence of the Benson and Hedges Cup by throwing away victory in a way which will dent even their durable confidence.

Everything went wrong for Warwickshire in the last 11 of their 55 overs, during which they collapsed from 172 for 2 to 224 all out to lose by six runs. From the home side's point of view, no contribution was celebrated more than that of Chris Cairns, whose return as Nottinghamshire's overseas player follows a long period of rehabilitation from the knee injury that forced him to miss last year's New Zealand tour of England.

Cairns, who had confessed to lacking confidence about his bowling in pre-season matches, took responsibility for bowling the last over of Warwickshire's innings, when the result was in the balance. He rewarded Nottinghamshire with a run-out and two wickets, including that of Roger Twose for 54 when two blows from the left-hander, with three balls remaining, could still have settled the issue in his side's favour. At the beginning of the last over 13 were required.

Cairns had been responsible, too, for breaking a century second-wicket stand by dismissing Andy Moles but was pipped to the gold award by the reliable seamer Kevin Evans, whose impressive post-tea spell brought the downfall of Dominic Ostler, caught at mid-off for 87.

In the circumstances Warwickshire probably felt more than a little put out over an extraordinary escape enjoyed by Paul Johnson, the mainstay of Nottinghamshire's 230 for 6, when he had made 42 of his 70 runs. Twose moved quickly to cut off Wayne Noon's push to leg and clearly ran out Johnson, the non-striker. In doing so, however, Twose had the bad luck to career into Mervyn Kitchen at square leg, completely obscuring the umpire's view.

How valuable those extra runs were to Nottinghamshire, especially after Cairns and Chris Lewis had both fallen cheaply to Alan Donald. Lewis made more impact with the ball, although he will need to if he is to justify his promise "to start the season so well that Ray Illingworth cannot afford to leave me out".