Cricket: Powell a steady anchor on testing ground

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Warwickshire 130 and 280 Nottinghamshire 218 and 66-1

IT WAS the day of the Lord Mayor's Show in Birmingham, and we know what happens after that. Brian Lara and Michael Powell briefly provided some regal entertainment, after which the Nottinghamshire dust-cart swept up the remaining seven second-innings wickets for 48 runs in 19 overs, and Warwickshire, the pre-season Championship favourites, were facing a second defeat in four matches.

Trailing by 88 on the first innings, their under strength side were dismissed for 280, leaving Nottinghamshire to score 193 for their first victory of the season. On a capricious pitch and with wicket-keeper Wayne Noon - a victim of it - unable to bat, that was not an easy target, but although Ed Giddins removed Tim Robinson with the total at 21, Matt Dowman and Usman Afzaal moved surely towards it.

Batting has been difficult throughout, which reflected all the more credit on Lara and, in particular, young opener Powell. On the first day he had carried his bat and carried the team in making 70 - more runs than 10 colleagues managed between them - as Warwickshire were hoist by their own petard on a green pitch. Second time around, he played anchor-man to the equally inexperienced reserve wicket-keeper Tony Frost and then Lara, but again outlasted both in making 73.

Confusingly for statisticians, he is the second young batsman called Michael J Powell currently making his name. Like his Glamorgan namesake (who is Michael John as opposed to Michael James), the queue ahead of him had permitted no more than five first class appearances before this season. But with the Abergavenny man making a century at Northampton this week, both appear equally determined to make the most of rare opportunities.

The Warwickshire Powell is regarded by club officials as having a wise old head on 23-year-old shoulders and has already impressed them while captaining the second eleven. As Andy Moles is some way off full fitness, and further England calls beckon Nick Knight, it may be some while before he returns to the seconds.

Yesterday he demonstrated his patience in waiting 35 minutes before adding to his overnight score of 52. After only six runs had come in the first seven overs, Lara took two fours off the same over from Paul Franks, only to mistime the same bowler and give Afzaal a straightforward catch at extra cover.

Batsmen rarely knew whether the ball would lift or keep low. "We've got the best batsman in the world and the worst pitch on the county circuit," grumbled one home supporter.

Powell's dismissal was to a lifter that he gloved to Paul Johnson, taking his third catch as stand-in for Noon. Andy Oram, the bowler on that occasion, snared Dominic Ostler and Neil Smith (for a pair) in his next two overs and with Dougie Brown falling to Dowman, Warwickshire had every reason to be grateful for Mo Sheikh's 25 for keeping them in with any sort of a chance as well as Johnson's decision to employ the expensive Chris Tolley.

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