Cricket: Warwickshire crush Surrey to close the gap

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Warwickshire . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .246 and 399-9 dec

Surrey . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .143 and 246

Warwickshire win by 256 runs

WHEN Manchester United were attempting the unique feat of winning all three domestic football trophies last winter, everyone agreed that it was possible because they had the most talented players and the strongest squad.

Warwickshire are now attempting cricket's equivalent, a sweep of four trophies, and though they have neither United's depth or quality - Brian Lara aside - they are looking a better bet.

Yesterday they completed a crushing victory over Surrey to go second in the County Championship. Surrey remain top, thanks to Leicestershire's failure to beat Yorkshire, but they are just four points clear of Warwickshire who have a game in hand.

Against an injury-weakened side and despite having first bowl on a green track, Surrey were totally outplayed by a side that had been 86 for 6 early on the first day. As last year, their season is beginning to crumble just as it should be building to a climax.

Warwickshire, however, appear to be thriving on the pressure of expectation. The Benson and Hedges Cup is already theirs, they top the Sunday League, are in the last eight of the NatWest Trophy and with this, their third successive Championship win, have gone from being 46 points behind a month ago.

All this despite not having a single player under consideration for England honours. Lara, obviously, would be included were he English but the aspect of Warwickshire's cricket Ray Illingworth would like to see in his England team is their self-belief.

Apart from Lara - and he has done little in one-day matches - they are a resourceful team whose sum adds up to more than the parts indicate. This match, wrapped up in less than one and a half hours yesterday, typified their ability to unearth unlikely heroes.

Already without Dermot Reeve and Gladstone Small, they lost Paul Smith to injury amid last Thursday's early clatter of wickets. Then two unknown bowlers, Graeme Welch and Dougie Brown, led a batting recovery; a batsman, Roger Twose, took six wickets to set up the chance of victory and Andy Moles made an unbeaten double-hundred to assure it.

Yesterday, chasing a further 381 runs with only five wickets left, Surrey never had a hope. They refused to go quietly: Tony Pigott hit 40 in 33 balls and Joey Benjamin 31 in 18 as the last three wickets added 106 off 14 overs. But it was as futile as it was entertaining, and with Tim Munton taking five wickets, to give him nine for 137 in the match, and Neil Smith four, Warwickshire claimed their 19th win in 24 matches this year (with one defeat).

On Thursday Warwickshire meet Essex, joint fourth with Nottinghamshire, whose visitors the same day are Surrey.