Cricket: Warwickshire well on the way to the title: Leaders have 29-point cushion at the top of the County Championship table despite Lara's recent poor form

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Yorkshire. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .310 and 347

Warwickshire . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .459 and 200-2

Warwickshire win by 8 wickets

WARWICKSHIRE made a substantial leap towards the safe custody of the County Championship here yesterday when they wrapped up victory over Yorkshire in rather more comfort than they might have anticipated.

Required to score 199 from 49 overs when an elongated Yorkshire fightback finally expired about an hour before tea, Warwickshire ultimately had 51 balls to spare, the winning margin eight wickets for maximum points.

The consequence is that Warwickshire now have a cushion of 29 points at the top of the table, the largest margin by which any county has led at any stage of the Championship, which serves only to emphasise what an open race it has been.

All the other results in this round have gone Warwickshire's way. Their arch rivals, Worcestershire, did them the biggest favour, the outcome at New Road being worth eight points on the lead, denying Nottinghamshire the opportunity to advance to second place on 203 points to Warwickshire's 224. Three games remain for Warwickshire, and if they can win the first of them, against fourth-placed Sussex at Hove, beginning on Thursday, the title will be pretty well in the bag.

Within the next week and a half, culminating in the NatWest Trophy final against Worcestershire, Warwickshire may complete two more legs of an unprecedented grand slam. And who says that they will not also take the Sunday crown?

History will recall this as Brian Lara's season but the reality is that the West Indian has played a diminishing role, as yesterday demonstrated. Handicapped by a sprained right knee in addition to a persistent problem with his left knee, Lara, batting with a runner, made only 17 yesterday, for 38 in the match.

Instead, the match-winners were the left-arm spinner Richard Davis, whose figures of 6 for 94 were his best since moving from Kent last winter, Roger Twose, whose unbeaten 86 included the winning boundary, and, going back to Friday, Dominic Ostler, whose splendid 186 was the bedrock of Warwickshire's half-way lead of 149.

Given their crumbling morale, Yorkshire deserve some credit for giving their opponents what could have been a tricky target had the pitch not been so bland nor Yorkshire's bowling so innocuous.

Resuming 52 in front, they lost Martyn Moxon, Saturday's centurion, when 75 ahead and were not long slipping from 224 for 3 to 249 for 6. Davis bowled cleverly, but Richard Blakey held up the leaders' progress in a 57-run partnership for the seventh wicket with Alex Wharf.

Had Warwickshire lost early wickets, the pursuit might have been less straightforward, but resourceful batting by Twose and Andy Moles provided an excellent foundation, 89 runs accruing in only 16 overs before Jeremy Batty held a stinging return catch to break the stand.

After Lara's interlude, in which his physical condition raised doubts about how much more he will be able to contribute, Twose and Ostler had time in hand to guide their side home.

----------------------------------------------------------------- TOP SIX ----------------------------------------------------------------- P W L D Bat Bwl Tot Warwicks (16) 14 9 1 4 37 43 224 Leics (9) 13 7 5 1 36 47 195 Notts (7) 14 7 4 3 30 45 187 Sussex (10) 14 7 3 4 26 48 186 Surrey (6) 14 7 6 1 25 47 184 Somerset (5) 14 7 5 2 28 43 183 - 1993 positions in brackets. -----------------------------------------------------------------

----------------------------------------------------------------- CHAMPIONSHIP RUN-IN ----------------------------------------------------------------- WARWICKSHIRE 25 August: v Sussex (a) 30 August: v Hampshire (h) 8 Sept: - 15 Sept: v Gloucestershire (a) LEICESTERSHIRE 25 August: v Glamorgan (a) 30 August: v Gloucestershire (a) 8 Sept: v Hampshire (h) 15 Sept: v Lancashire (a) SURREY 25 August: v Middlesex (h) 30 August: - 8 Sept: v Yorkshire (a) 15 Sept: v Kent (h) NOTTINGHAMSHIRE 25 August: v Lancashire (h) 30 August: v Glamorgan (h) 8 Sept: - 15 Sept: v Middlesex (h) SUSSEX 25 August: v Warwickshire (h) 30 August: v Essex (a) 8 Sept: - 15 Sept: v Yorkshire (h) SOMERSET 25 August: - 30 August: v Northamptonshire (h) 8 Sept: v Kent (a) 15 Sept: v Derbyshire (h) -----------------------------------------------------------------

Reports, Scoreboard, page 30

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