County round-up: Rhodes fumes over 'unfit' Edgbaston pitch

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The Independent Online

Worcestershire’s Steve Rhodes believes Warwickshire were lucky not to be punished more harshly after being docked eight points over the state of the pitch at Edgbaston, where they completed a 218-run victory over their neighbours soon after midday.

The England and Wales Cricket Board imposed the sanction on Friday evening after a pitch panel marked the surface as poor because of excessive uneven bounce. Warwickshire are to appeal on the grounds of procedural issues.

But Rhodes, Worcestershire’s director of cricket, argued last night that the maximum 24-point penalty for producing a pitch unfit for first-class cricket should have been imposed after two of his players were injured.

"Their (the panel's) opinion was that it was poor but my personal view is that it was unfit," Rhodes said. "I can safely say that it is probably the worst wicket I have seen in professional cricket in England."

Former England batsman Vikram Solanki had to be taken to hospital on Friday after ducking into a short ball from Warwickshire paceman Boyd Rankin, which hit him just below the ear in an area unprotected by his helmet. Happily, x-rays revealed no serious damage, although he did not reappear to complete his innings.

Yesterday, wicketkeeper Ben Scott retired hurt after he was struck on the fingers. At that point, on 109 for seven in pursuit of a target of 328 to win, Worcestershire effectively conceded on the basis that they had no more fit batsmen.

Solanki, although he batted in the nets yesterday morning, was not inclined to go out again, while number 11 batsman Alan Richardson had an unrelated leg injury.

Warwickshire have installed a new drainage system and relaid the outfield over the winter, as well as constructing a new four-story grandstand, all of which are likely to have created extra challenges for groundsman Steve Rouse, who has to prepare a wicket for the third Test against India in August.

But none of that has been offered as a defence by Warwickshire, whose appeal will focus on the way in which the pitch panel was set-up. Normally, the first to raise concerns would be the umpires, Martin Bodenham and Ian Gould, but on this occasion it was a journalist who alerted the ECB.

“I can’t go into a lot of detail,” director of cricket Ashley Giles said. “It was not a great wicket, no one is denying that. It is more about the process that was followed.” Edgbaston is

Warwickshire would been level on points with Division One leaders Nottinghamshire had the reward for their third victory of the season not been cut to 15 points.

Yorkshire, who began their season with a win over Worcestershire but have been unable to follow it up despite being in strong positions in three out of four matches since, missed another opportunity against Hampshire at Headingley.

A declaration at 165 for eight six overs after lunch gave them a minimum 59 overs to take 10 wickets after setting a target of 289 to win and hopes were high after three wickets in eight balls by England’s Tim Bresnan had the visitors reeling at seven for four.

Two wickets from Steve Patterson advanced their cause as Hampshire stumbled to 54 for six but Sean Ervine and captain Dominic Cork dug in stubbornly, the latter passing 10,000 first-class career runs as the pair put on 73 in just over 19 overs.

Yorkshire sniffed victory again when leg-spinner Adil Rashid dismissed both in the space of nine deliveries but Danny Briggs and Kabir Ali blocked out the last 13.4 overs to bring more frustration for Andrew Gale’s side.

An injury to Gerard Brophy was an extra blow for Yorkshire. The 35-year-old South African, who is due to take over wicketkeeping duties from England Lions-bound Jonathan Bairstow in next week’s Roses match, finished his innings in pain after being hit on the hand by a ball from paceman Kabir Ali and was unable to field, although an x-ray revealed no break.

Northamptonshire are the new leaders in Division Two, having needed only half an hour on the final morning to complete victory over Gloucestershire at Bristol by an innings and six runs, to take a 12-point lead over Middlesex, who have played a match fewer.