Cricket: Munton's sweeping statement

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Warwickshire 280 and 259

Derbyshire 198 and 202

Warwickshire won by 139 runs

WARWICKSHIRE, quoted by the bookmakers at a nonsensical 3-1 to complete a clean sweep of this season's domestic silverware even before this match started, will be almost unbackable now after a 139-run victory, completed 90 minutes after lunch here yesterday, took them above Surrey and into pole position in the County Championship.

Given that no county has ever hoisted more than two major trophies in one year, the odds are so mean they are scarcely worth a thought. Seven weeks of the season still remain, time enough for much to go wrong.

For the moment, however, every flower in Warwickshire's garden is in glorious bloom. This was their sixth Championship win in a row, which is title form in anybody's book. Taking everything into account, with one winners' cheque already in their pocket, their score is 23 wins from 27 starts and only one defeat.

There is no doubt that the recruitment of Brian Lara has had much to do with this but, amid all the hullabaloo which greeted the record-breaker's arrival, those taking a broader view were pointing out that nothing would be achieved without others performing significant deeds too.

That is precisely what has happened. Lara had gone five weeks without a century before this match, and although his role here was to provide an awe-inspiring innings of 142, it is to the likes of Tim Munton, Keith Piper and Neil Smith that Warwickshire owe as much.

Munton, captain for the last five Championship games in the absence of an injured Dermot Reeve, is in brilliant form. Of his 62 first-class wickets so far - at 20.95 - 42 have come in those five games. He had seven for 52 in the first innings here and added another two yesterday, his 29th birthday, when he bowled magnificently, moving the ball in the air and off the pitch and maintaining a superb line.

It is Warwickshire's worry that Munton is in such an irresistible purple patch that he will bowl himself into the England team, perhaps even at Headingley this week, while his county are taking on Nottinghamshire. With Paul Smith and Gladstone Small out of action, it would not be an opportune call-up.

Derbyshire, chasing a theoretical 340 to win, resumed at 26 for one and by the ninth over of the morning they were four down for 35. Munton found the edge to remove Adrian Rollins and Tim O'Gorman, while Smith drew nightwatchman Simon Base, into giving him the charge, offering Piper a comfortable stumping.

It was a fine day for Piper, rated a wicketkeeper of high promise by Warwickshire's coach, Bob Woolmer, who said yesterday: 'His wicketkeeping in the last six weeks has been the best I have seen since Alan Knott. I played in the Kent team with Alan and I'm not saying Keith is a better keeper, but his performances recently have been something special.'

Piper finished with seven dismissals in the innings, 11 in the match - a Warwickshire record. One more would have equalled the world record.

Smith, meanwhile, returned five for 69 as the pitch continued to take spin, twice ending partnerships which threatened to prolong the contest. Mohammad Azharuddin clipped him straight to midwicket after putting on 51 with Chris Adams, and Colin Wells, who added 46 with Matthew Vandrau, was bowled playing back to the off- spinner's first ball of the afternoon.

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