Cricket: Lara lightens up the gloom

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The Independent Online
Hampshire. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .278

Warwickshire . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .210-1

ONLY rain interrupted Warwickshire's gallop to beat Hampshire, upstage their closest rivals and head inexorably to an unprecedented Grand Slam. No play was possible after 2.35pm, but Warwickshire had been scoring at five an over.

Their chase for runs centred on Brian Lara and Roger Twose sharing an unbroken second-wicket partnership of 156, including 22 boundaries, in 28 overs. The premature end deferred one probability: Lara reaching a ninth first class hundred to equal Alvin Kallicharran's Warwickshire record, set a decade ago.

Statistics told the tale of Warwickshire's urgency. Lara's innings of 89, from 93 balls, took him to within 36 runs of 2,000 this summer. Twose, having been capped in 1992, scored a meagre 184 at an average of 11.5 last summer. This season, he has totalled 1,452 at 58.08.

The future of Twose, who struck 14 boundaries in his 84 from 121 balls, is clouded with uncertainty. His emigration to New Zealand is a strong possibility, but the carrot of a future county benefit might change that. If he does leave at the end of this season, his legacy must be proof of what a world-class player, Lara, can do for Twose, someone who honestly admits he is a much lesser left-hander.

Such was Warwickshire's eagerness to close the gap on Hampshire's total that the pair added 69 from 11 overs immediately after lunch and declined an offer of bad light, with five scoreboard lights beaming through the gloom.

Hampshire, who bowled moderately, still had their opportunities. Twose, on 39, top-edged Shaun Udal, but Cardigan Connor circled with deep uncertainty beneath the catch. After adding another 21, Twose pushed a sharp chance to Tony Middleton at silly mid-off.

Lara meted out punishment to Udal as he made his best score in nine innings since plundering 197 at Northampton. His average over the past two months has been 34, illustrating that even batsmen of his class and achievement must be aware of their own mortality.

Andy Moles, a hearty contributor to Warwickshire's success this summer, was the only batsman dismissed in six minutes under three hours, caught down the leg side by Adrian Aymes off Connor.

(Photograph omitted)