Cricket: Warwickshire slide to first defeat of season: Front-runners face test of nerve after surrender of their unbeaten record leaves eight teams in the running for the Championship

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Nottinghamshire . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .597 for 8 dec

Warwickshire . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 321 and 233

Notts win by an innings and 43 runs

WINNING the Championship was sure to be the hardest part of Warwickshire's grand slam attempt and they are beginning to feel the hot breath of the chasing pack on their necks now. So far, the inspiration of Brian Lara and a willingness to work has put them where they are. From here, nerve and resilience will also be required.

A draw against Nottinghamshire yesterday would not have altered the very top of the table, where Leicestershire's victory cut Warwickshire's lead to nine points. But failure to achieve even that means that Nottinghamshire themselves are firmly back in contention in fourth place, only 20 points adrift.

Warwickshire's defeat was their first in the Championship for 50 weeks, since Worcestershire won at Edgbaston, by 10 wickets, last August.

After the magnificent performance of Chris Lewis on Friday, Warwickshire's only target in this match was to preserve their unbeaten record. Lewis's double-hundred turned a good Nottinghamshire first innings into one of embarrassing proportions for Tim Munton, the acting home captain, who had put them in.

Warwickshire did not even get a sniff of avoiding the follow-on, despite the worthy efforts of Graeme Welch with his career-best 84 not out and when Lara succumbed to his first duck of the Championship on Saturday evening - which dropped his average below 100 - they might have sensed that their luck was deserting them at last.

Even so, a more convincing attempt at saving the game might have been anticipated, compared with the one which ended 45 minutes after lunch. They may have been still 142 runs behind at 11am but did have seven wickets in hand.

In these situations it does not help to give wickets away but Warwickshire did, slipping to five down, 125 behind, within the first 10 overs of the morning. Trevor Penney, padding up, was bowled around his legs by Jimmy Adams; then Roger Twose whose progress to 80 had raised at least some hope of survival, went back to play Lewis on the off side and stepped on to his stumps.

Welch was a victim of no bounce and it was only through some lusty blows by Keith Piper, batting with a runner because of a nagging hip injury, that the contest survived beyond lunch. Piper went when a ball from Jeremy Hindson, a left-arm spinner making his first Championship appearance of the season, beat his attempted pull.

Munton waded in with some token defiance, hitting Lewis for three fours in one over, but a generally weary Warwickshire effort had not much more to give. Lewis, looking an invigorated all- rounder, ended it with Munton's wicket, taking six from the match.

----------------------------------------------------------------- COUNTY CHAMPIONSHIP TOP EIGHT ----------------------------------------------------------------- P W L D Bat Bwl Tot Warwickshire 13 8 1 4 33 39 200 Leicestershire 12 7 4 1 36 43 191 Surrey 13 7 5 1 25 45 182 Notts 13 7 3 3 27 41 180 Essex 13 6 4 3 28 47 171 Sussex 13 6 3 4 25 44 165 Somerset 13 6 5 2 27 39 162 Middlesex 13 5 2 6 31 44 155 -----------------------------------------------------------------

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