Cricket: Reckless Lara lets side down

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Warwickshire 228 for 9 Nottinghamshire 223 for 8 Warwickshire win by 5 runs

WARWICKSHIRE limped their way to victory over Nottinghamshire, but they twice surrendered the initiative so comprehensively that they allowed Lancashire to edge them out of a place in the Benson and Hedges Cup quarter-finals by dint of a superior run rate.

When Nottinghamshire were 66 for 5 in the 20th over it looked as if it would be Warwickshire's day. At this point, however, Noel Gie, the Gold Award winner, was joined by Wayne Noon and in a stand which moved from splendid defiance to heroic inspiration, they put on 121 in 24 overs.

Gie was then caught and bowled by Ashley Giles off the leading edge and when, two overs later, Noon was caught behind trying to run Giles to third man, 29 were needed from four overs, which was six too many.

Warwickshire will be mortified not to have reached the knockout stage of the competition and some questions need to be answered. Brian Lara's contribution, in particular, must come under the closest scrutiny. He played an innings which bore little relation to Warwickshire's needs and in the field he was disappointingly content to let things drift when Gie and Noon's partnership was gaining momentum.

The pitch had a distinctly green tinge in the first part of the day. Lara was the only batsman on either side with the ability to make light of the conditions and, having decided to bat first, a significant innings by him was essential. As it was, he played an extraordinary cameo of 49 in 48 balls which was a hotchpotch of brilliant strokes, dropped catches, any number of edges and a deafening couldn't-care-less attitude.

On this sort of occasion, even Lara should realise that he has to take his genius in hand. He should cut out the most outrageous strokes and set his mind on making the sizeable score which would have still had Warwickshire heading in the general direction of a final at Lord's.

His innings was summed up in one remarkable over from Jason Gallian. Off the second ball, he survived a confident appeal for a catch behind and his refusal to walk won him few friends in Nottinghamshire. He was dropped behind off the next and pulled the fourth for four. He tried to repeat the stroke and was dropped off at mid-on before pulling the sixth for four.

Soon afterwards, when the leg-spinner Paul Strang came on he pulled his first ball for six but then tried to make room to cut the second which was quicker and not quite short enough and was caught behind. It was not a responsible stroke.

Warwickshire's innings had been given ballast at the start by David Hemp and later , after Lara, Trevor Penney made sure they went comfortably past 200.

When Nottinghamshire's first five wickets fell for 66 it did not look as if Lara would have too many awkward questions to answer. But then Gie and Noon joined forces and Warwickshire and Lara, thinking their job was done, allowed the game to drift.

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