Cricket: Warwickshire exploit Essex frailties

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Essex 147 Warwickshire 148-7

Warwickshire win by 3 wickets

THE Essex collapse, once an unknown phenomenon, is becoming a worrying affliction but Warwickshire were just pleased to exploit it and increase their lead at the top of the AXA Equity and Law League yesterday.

After losing their last eight wickets for 60 runs in the resounding Championship defeat the previous evening, Essex plummeted once again. The final nine wickets tumbled for 61 runs, with Neil Smith taking 3 for 28 to reinforce the merits of spin, even in a 40-over game.

Warwickshire's finely- honed professional performance contrasted with a rag- bag Essex display in which they lacked judgement, batted loosely and fielded moderately.

Nasser Hussain's dropped catch on the cover boundary off Neil Smith was among Essex's lowest moments.

Others included the stumble from 86 for 1 when they seemed likely to set a challenging target beneath leaden skies.

Nick Knight achieved the improbable distinction of top scoring in all three innings, including the Championship game, against Warwickshire, who are now only 11-1 against winning all four competitions.

At the season's start, they were 8,567-1 but that was before their wide range of contributors began a sequence bringing 22 wins, four draws and only one defeat in all cricket.

Paul Smith made his now customary all-round impact, dismissing Knight and Hussain, running out Ronnie Irani, making 45 with seven fours off 55 balls and sharing in the decisive fourth-wicket partnership of 60 in 14 overs with Asif Din.

Brian Lara's latest one-day failure mattered little. He was leg-before to a ball from Peter Such which kept low and turned sharply.

Dominic Ostler was bowled by another delivery skidding through but Paul Smith, a combative player, relished his duel with Mike Kasprowicz. After being struck in the ribs by a rising delivery, Smith proceeded to hit three fours in the same over.