Cricket: Munton's swing helps tilt balance

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The Independent Online
Warwickshire 280 and 259

Derbyshire 198 and 26-1

ANOTHER 15 wickets fell here yesterday to add to the 16 that disappeared on the first day, and Brian Lara batted more like a mere mortal. But Warwickshire turned a handy first-innings advantage into a lead of 341 and would not have been too dismayed when the ball started to turn in mid-afternoon.

Initially, everything happened too slowly for Matthew Vandrau, the off-spinner, but by operating to two short legs he was at least able to regain self-respect after his mauling on the first day; it was when Kim Barnett brought his wrist-spin into the fray that eyebrows were raised in the visitors' dressing-room.

Four years ago here he spun Glamorgan to defeat on a dry pitch by taking 6 for 28. If his intention now was nothing more than a token over before tea, the sight of Andy Moles falling to a perfectly pitched leg-break, which turned and bounced, quickly concentrated his mind.

Immediately afterwards, Jason Ratcliffe, Keith Piper, Graeme Welch and Tim Munton were all flummoxed in one way or another, Vandrau obtained just rewards and Warwickshire's last seven wickets went down for 45, a lower-order fiasco similar to their first innings.

Fortunately for them, Munton, swinging the old ball both ways on a pitch which, after its morning trim, had lost some of its greenness, had nipped out Derbyshire's tail without too many pyrotechnics. Then Moles and Dominic Ostler sandwiched a Lara cameo with sober half-centuries.

Lara had gone past 50 from 45 balls with a mixture of the glorious and the uncertain when he was lbw moving a long way across his stumps to Simon Base. At times, he leaves not only leg but middle stump exposed in this manner; could this be the 'weakness' that Worcestershire's Neal Radford claimed to have spotted earlier in the season?

No matter. Moles and Ostler added 114 in 30 overs by judicious stroke selection. The pitch still offered the quicker bowlers something now and then but, as the ball lost its hardness, they must have thought the hardest bit was behind them until spin took command.

All that left Derbyshire needing the highest total of the match with more than two days stretching before them. It was no surprise when Neil Smith's off-spin appeared after only six overs and soon afterwards Dominic Cork was caught at the wicket off him, leaving Derbyshire well aware that they would have to bat decidedly well to pull this one out of the bag.