Cricket: Munton leads charge

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Warwickshire 361 and 268

Essex 215 and 211

Warwicks won by 203 runs

TIM MUNTON could not manage a captain's innings at Edgbaston - he was out for a duck - but he produced a captain's bowling spell. In 10 overs after tea, Munton had Nasser Hussain and Jon Lewis lbw for only 10 runs and he then took two of the last three wickets to fall when extra overs were taken to complete a splendid victory by 214 runs, Warwickshire's fifth win in a row.

It was hard and sometimes frustrating work on a dusty brown wicket, largely because of a spirited century by Nick Knight who was last out for 113, his highest score in county cricket. But his partners came and went with increasing velocity and the last five wickets went for 29 runs.

Warwickshire went into this match four points behind Surrey, who won yesterday. But they are on a roll.

They have Brian Lara, of course, but three more batsmen are scoring freely and the bowlers are playing above themselves. They have some fairly easy fixtures ahead of them, and right now they look a better bet for the Championship than Surrey do.

No sponsor is ever likely to offer Tim Munton a bowler hat to celebrate a million pounds worth of contracts, as Lara was last week, but he has also been a heroic figure in Warwickshire cricket this season.

Even if he was not much help on a fine morning at Edgbaston when Warwickshire lost their last seven wickets for 112, but a second innings of 268 put their lead beyond 400; although Essex have scored more than 400 in the fourth innings this season (405 for six against Worcester), an encore was always improbable, especially without Gooch.

Munton, aged 28, has captained Warwickshire three times this season in the place of Dermot Reeve, whose groin injury is painfully slow to heal. And he has always been on the winning side.

He is a big man (6ft 6in and 151 2 stone), and fierce, getting the ball to rise sharply off a length into the batsman's gloves. Neil Smith may have got John Stephenson's wicket in Essex's second innings, but it was really Munton who got him out. First he hit Stephenson so painfully on the finger that the physiotherapist was called on to ease the pain. Munton's next ball pitched on the same spot and hit Stephenson in the same place. Fending off Munton's next ball, Stephenson was almost caught at short-leg.

Taking the single, Stephenson was so relieved to be facing Neil Smith's off-spin that he jumped down the pitch to drive, missed miserably and was stumped for 15 by Keith Piper, to give the wicketkeeper his eighth dismissal in the match so far.

When Hussain came in Munton appealed confidently for lbw five times in five overs, finally persuading the umpire, George Sharp, to give him out with the least likely of the five.

By the time Munton finished his spell the Essex batsmen were thoroughly unsettled and Douglas Brown took the next four wickets for 25 runs, one of which was an exciting diving catch by Brian Lara to dismiss Ronnie Irani.

Munton played briefly for England and is unlikely to be recalled, but his six wickets in Essex's first innings and two more in the second bring his season's total in the championship to 53. If Warwickshire do win the championship, Lara may get the most publicity, but Munton will deserve just as much of the praise.