Cricket / Sunday League: Lara signs off with Warwickshire title hat-trick: Gloucestershire out of their depth as Sunday league trophy joins Edgbaston silverware collection

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Warwickshire . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 183-8

Gloucestershire . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .137

Warwickshire win by 46 runs

NEVER in the history of English cricket has a less celebrated team had so much to celebrate. Irresistible force they might not be, but it was Warwickshire's good fortune to run into one of county cricket's more moveable objects yesterday, and they were barely required to break sweat in adding the Sunday League to their Championship and Benson and Hedges trophies here yesterday.

Warwickshire have lost only five of their 43 matches all summer, and while England's selectors might think this is more of a reason for bursting into tears than applause, walking off with threequarters of county cricket's available swag - around pounds 140,000 - remains quite an achievement.

Warwickshire won by 46 runs, and although they were 3 for 3 after five overs yesterday (and would have been 3 for 4 had it not been for a badly dropped catch) the only hint of equality between the sides thereafter was a photo finish for the ugliest coloured outfits. Apparently, the High Street store, Next, has been appointed to redesign next summer's strips with all- white fronted shirts, in which case 11 people looking like penguins will be a marginal improvement on what resembles Hull Kingston Rovers versus Bradford Northern.

In terms of shirtfronts, the Bristol pitch certainly failed to qualify. It was one of those horrible, slow seamers which benefits neither player nor spectator. Warwickshire, put in, recovered from 3 for 3 (all three runs from wides) to make 183 for 9 from 39 overs, which was above par for the conditions.

Warwickshire's revival was launched by Brian Lara and Trevor Penney with a fourth-wicket partnership of 68, which would have been 68 less had Courtney Walsh not apparently been in mid-doze when he dropped Penney, second ball, at midwicket.

Walsh has won a lot of admirers for his input since taking over as Gloucestershire's captain this summer, but this was not one of his better afternoons. Despite the fact that Warwickshire were struggling, he stuck rigidly to the manual banning all slip fielders on Sunday afternoons, and presided over such a poor over-rate that he, Gloucestershire's best bowler, failed to complete his alloted quota.

Warwickshire's initial revival was temporarily halted when Lara sliced a catch to Mike Smith at third man. The television cameras appeared to cast some doubt on the validity of the catch, but given the high stakes of the game, it was nice to see Lara walk off without referring it to arbitration.

Lara's next appearance in England will be for the West Indies next summer, always assuming that he is not in a home for the disabled by then. He was given a house by the Trinidadian Prime Minister for his 375 in Antigua last winter, but such is the West Indies' schedule over the next 12 months he will be seeing precious little of it.

Penney and Dermot Reeve made 75 together in 11 overs after Lara's departure, easily the fastest scoring rate of the match, and Warwickshire's customary efficiency in the field meant that Gloucestershire were always well behind the asking rate.

Their early batsmen could barely get the ball off the square, and although Matt Windows and Rob Dawson put on 50 in 12 overs for the fourth wicket, once they were parted, Gloucestershire fell apart so swiftly that even Warwickshire's supporters felt a sense of anti-climax.

Photograph, Scoreboard, page 37