Cricket: Lara puts treble in sight: Warwickshire move a step nearer Sunday title

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Hampshire 197-4

Warwickshire 147-4

Warwickshire win on faster scoring rate

THIS VICTORY, powering Warwickshire towards the glittering title of treble champions, may have appeared circumstantial. Yet, for once, the team batting second and winning a rain-affected match had lost the toss, with Brian Lara thrashing a half-century from 53 balls.

It was dubious if he had an eye on the clouds, anyway. He just played in the usual way but more successfully than normal in one-day cricket this summer, making his third half-century in the Sunday League and his fifth overall in limited-overs matches.

Barring more bad weather, the white ball of the AXA Equity and Law League is very much in Warwickshire's court. Beating Gloucestershire at Bristol on Sunday week would add another trophy to an already crowded cupboard.

Mark Nicholas, the Hampshire captain, attempted to balance playing on a four-day- old pitch, already used for last week's Championship game, with the threat of rain. It had been forecast for early in the day, but arrived as late as 5.30pm to ruin what would have been a rousing finale. Yet no one would have still expected Nicholas to opt to bat, though Robin Smith enjoyed the decision hugely with an innings of 68, with eight fours, from 89 balls.

Warwickshire were nine runs ahead of what was required for victory when the rain tumbled down, albeit for only half an hour or so. Lara's telling contribution of 56 at a run a ball included 17 from an over off Shaun Udal. He drove a six deep into the seats at long-off and added two square-cuts to the fence, all in the space of four balls.

His influence swept Warwickshire beyond 50 in the 10th over, which countered Hampshire's four-over flourish at the end bringing 48 runs off Roger Twose and Tim Munton.

Nicholas struck sixes off Richard Davis and Twose in an unbroken fifth-wicket partnership of 74 from 10 overs with Adrian Aymes, but Warwickshire showed their immense character by rallying from 28 for 2, 78 for 3 and 96 for 4 to thrive on Reeve, the man for all situations, and Trevor Penney.

Flagging in Lara's final home match they may have been after a gruelling season in which every single day has mattered, but ailing they are not.

----------------------------------------------------------------- AXA EQUITY AND LAW LEAGUE TABLE ----------------------------------------------------------------- P W L T NR Pts Warwickshire (10) 16 12 3 0 1 50 Worcestershire (16) 15 11 3 0 1 46 Kent (2) 15 11 4 0 0 44 Lancashire (6) 15 9 5 0 1 38 Yorkshire (9) 15 9 5 0 1 38 Glamorgan (1) 15 8 5 1 1 36 Surrey (3) 15 7 5 0 3 34 Derbyshire (11) 15 7 6 0 2 32 Durham (7) 15 6 5 1 3 32 Notts (17) 16 6 7 0 3 30 Leicestershire (14) 15 6 8 0 1 26 Hampshire (15) 15 6 9 0 0 24 Northants (5) 16 5 9 1 1 24 Sussex (4) 16 5 10 0 1 22 Middlesex (8) 15 5 9 0 1 22 Somerset (18) 15 5 10 0 0 20 Essex (12) 15 3 10 1 1 16 Gloucestershire (13) 15 3 11 0 1 14 1993 positions in brackets -----------------------------------------------------------------

REMAINING FIXTURES: 11 Sept: Derby: Derbyshire v Essex. Stockton: Durham v Lancashire. Cardiff: Glamorgan v Worcestershire. Canterbury: Kent v Somerset. Leicester: Leicestershire v Hampshire; Lord's: Middlesex v Gloucestershire. Scarborough: Yorkshire v Surrey. 18 Sept: Chelmsford: Essex v Northamptonshire. Bristol: Gloucestershire v Warwickshire. Southampton: Hampshire v Glamorgan. Old Trafford: Lancashire v Leicestershire. Trent Bridge: Nottinghamshire v Middlesex. Taunton: Somerset v Kent. The Oval: Surrey v Kent. Hove: Sussex v Yorkshire. Worcestershire: Worcestershire v Durham.

Scoreboard, page 39

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