Cricket: Munton sinks Sussex

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The Independent Online
Sussex 131 and 127

Warwickshire 183 and 79-0

Warwickshire won by 10 wkts

WARWICKSHIRE have done the hardest part of the cricketing grand slam. They made virtually certain of the County Championship yesterday, defeating Sussex by 10 wickets and running up a lead of 49 points in the table. Statistically they could be overhauled, but forget it. Leicestershire, now second, do not look good enough.

One team winning all four county competitions in a summer is so improbable that there is no settled term for it. But the quadruple sounds unpleasing, and grand slam has sporting prominence.

On Saturday Worcestershire will be seeking to avenge their Benson & Hedges Cup defeat by Warwickshire in July: the hardest leg of the four seems likely to be the Sunday League. And Warwickshire's destiny may not be settled until the penultimate day of the season, in the third week of September.

Their performance at Hove yesterday exemplified their strengths. This was a seamers' wicket and their seamers bowled better than Sussex's, leaving the batsmen to get 76 to win. Andy Moles and Roger Twose set about their business with gusto and had the game won in the 20th over.

This game was supposed to be a bumper Bank Holiday bonus for Sussex, but it was nearly over in two days and there was no charge at the gate for yesterday's play, which ended 35 minutes after lunch, having started 50 minutes late following a heavy shower.

Norman Gifford, the Sussex manager, watching the steady demolition of his capable bowling line-up, observed that Warwickshire are confident, well-organised, and they do the simple things well. He described them as 'workmanlike' and then thought better of it: 'They've become a good unit,' he said.

What he means is that the team is strong in each department of the game, including the captaincy. Tim Munton, Warwickshire's captain in place of Dermot Reeve, who is saving himself for the hectic last burst of the season, has won seven out of the eight games in which he has led the team, and, incidentally, taken 75 wickets, including eight against Sussex, having bagged the last two to fall yesterday morning.

The other quality Gifford highlighted in Warwickshire's season, is luck; 'You can't win the Championship without it.' They were lucky to bat last on this wicket, but their greatest stroke of luck was Brian Lara.

'If we'd had a batsman who had scored 1800 championship runs, we'd have been top of the table,' Gifford said.

As it is, Sussex have bowled well and batted badly this year, unlike last season when they batted well and bowled badly. Warwickshire, on the other hand, are suffering from the luxury of choice as they prepare for their second Lord's one-day final.

Asif Din, who won the Man of the Match award when Warwickshire defeated Sussex in last year's NatWest Trophy final is not even being considered for this year's. Two of their rich crop of all rounders, Reeve and Paul Smith, were not playing at Hove and since both are likely to be selected for Lord's, there will be no place for Graeme Welch, who has performed manfully in his first season, or for the off-spinner Richard Davis. Warwickshire will go into the final with no less than three accomplished all rounders, Twose being the third.

Looking at how they play, their performance this season is astonishing but not surprising. Grand slam indeed; it sounds ridiculous, but it is a good bet.

(Photograph omitted)