Cricket: Warwickshire's safety-first route

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The Independent Online
Warwickshire . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .216 and 346-5

Worcestershire . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .473-4 dec

Match drawn

THE exercise was purely of a face- saving nature and heaven knows Warwickshire, the only unbeaten side in the Championship, have already had their fair share of blushes in recent days. Even so, as the match meandered to its conclusion, some present here yesterday felt the leaders might have pushed along and risked everything in an effort to force a seventh successive victory.

After all, the argument ran, Warwickshire had nothing to lose against such lowly-placed neighbours, and much to gain from a game in which a solitary batting bonus point represented their lowest haul of the summer. The neighbourly business, though, runs deep in a fiercely competitive sense and could yet be renewed.

Today, the pair are involved in the NatWest Trophy semi-finals, with a view to sharing another Lord's showdown. Warwickshire are one up in the one-day silverware count following their Benson and Hedges Cup triumph, but Worcestershire closed the gap on the Sunday League leaders at the weekend. Suffice to say, Warwickshire yesterday were content with containment rather than entertainment.

The priority, rightly or wrongly, was simply to stave off Worcestershire, who had worked painstakingly towards their first innings lead of 257 and were still 201 ahead on the final morning. Initial vote of thanks was due to Andy Moles and the nightwatchman, Graeme Welch, both making half-centuries in a stand of 135 for the third wicket and Welch's 169-minute stay for 66 representing a career best.

But where was Brian Lara? 'Answering a call of nature,' came the reply from Bob Woolmer, the Warwickshire coach, when the West Indian failed to appear after Walsh's dismissal. The No 3 eventually turned up at No 6 following the departure of Moles and the least you can say is that he was intent on making up for lost time.

Dropped on 41 by a diving Neal Radford at first slip, Lara made a 54-ball 50, one straight drive to the boards of the type that would stun a rhinoceros at 100 paces let alone Radford, who nearly had the misfortune to get fully behind it. Lara's 10th boundary was his last and he departed with 1,800 first-class runs behind him for the season.

Trevor Penney was left to make his way to an unbeaten 84 before mutual satisfaction was reached with 11 overs remaining. Warwickshire were then 89 ahead of the last team to beat them in the Championship (at Edgbaston a year ago) and 17 points up on Surrey.