Cricket: Giddins in control as Donald takes it easy

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The Independent Online
Warks 229-5; Leics 195 Warwickshire won by 34 runs

GRACE ROAD sweltered yesterday and a substantial, sun-blocked crowd tried to work out the logic behind this mid-season frivolity. The eight most successful teams in four-day cricket last year are playing a swift one-day knockout.

Were it not for a substantial Benson and Hedges budget and the prospect of a Lord's final, this is the sort of mini-tournament that would sit comfortably at Scarborough during festival week, followed by a Russ Abbot show, a fish supper and a stroll along the promenade.

Next year the cigarette company will survive as cricket sponsors, but the Super Cup is a one-off. It seems something more akin to the late Benson and Hedges Cup will return, involving all first-class counties.

NatWest have commendably embraced a hugely expanded knockout, stretching across two seas from Dublin to Amsterdam, and a tournament based on the initial round-robin format of old is the most likely solution.

In the meantime, at least the Super Cup has adopted the established international standard of 50 overs per side, rather than the ridiculous 45-over fudge of the National League.

The pattern of yesterday was that Warwickshire established a less than impregnable target on a flat, blameless wicket and defended it by the best means available - they took early wickets and kept the screws on even during two productive stands.

It was the decision of both skippers on a steamy day to keep their bowlers to short spells, but Ed Giddins returned refreshed each time. Bowling with guile and control, his 5 for 21 was the crucial contribution.

South Africa's Allan Donald returned to the cricket field for the first time since he glanced up and saw Lance Klusener hurtling towards him, at the end of the most breathless World Cup match ever. Smiling and war- painted, he was yesterday employed in a more humble capacity as Warwickshire's fourth seam bowler.

His duel with fellow international paceman Mike Kasprowicz was a delight. Like most fast bowlers the Australian plays speed by running away from it, convincing himself that he is merely "making room". Donald repeatedly steered the ball well clear of leg stump, confident that Kasprowicz would prevent a wide call by backing into it.

But the latter hung around none the less, supporting Leicestershire's only hope, Darren Maddy, who gritted out 114 balls for a brave 84. Among his other team-mates only the cultured Aftab Habib looked able to assist in a home victory.

Nick Knight and David Hemp had built a solid platform for the Warwickshire innings, Hemp surviving a straightforward chance to Darren Stevens at slip on nought. But having erected the platform, they jumped off.

Knight never seemed in any trouble and yet he could not dominate. He creamed some delicious strokes wide of his body in the way left-handers do, but then he would become introspective. He and Hemp added 138 in 34 overs but, when it was time to hit top gear, they perished in turn trying to clear the ring of fielders.

As it transpired they had done enough. When Giddins returned late in the day to clean-bowl the persevering Maddy it became apparent that, by winning just one match, Warwickshire had reached the semi-final of this curious competition.