Ervine delighted to claim final glory as Bell tolls for Warwickshire
Hampshire 290 Warwickshire 272 (Hampshire win by 18 runs)
Bell, who was on 49 at the time, will recover and be fit for the final Ashes Test at The Oval, but his discomfort, and subsequent dismissal, changed the course of an exciting match which was ultimately won by Hampshire.
Warwickshire, chasing Hampshire's total of 290, were well placed while Bell and Nick Knight were putting on more than 100 runs for the second wicket. But Bell never regained composure after his fall and, with the aid of a runner, added only five runs before weakly driving a good-length ball from Shane Watson to Chris Tremlett at mid-off. Warwickshire, despite Knight's brave 118, then proceeded to lose their last nine wickets for the addition of just 106 runs.
The final offered Tremlett the chance to prove he is ready to take on Australia on Thursday, but his wayward bowling failed to convince the watching England selectors that he was the man to replace Simon Jones, should the fast bowler fail to overcome an injury to his right ankle. Tremlett claimed two late wickets with well-directed yorkers, the second of which took Hampshire to their 18-run victory, yet he conceded 33 runs in a nervous five-over spell with the new ball. The 6ft 8in giant bowled three wides in an opening over which cost 13 runs, and was slogged into the Tavern Stand for six by Neil Carter.
Hampshire deserved their success, and it was pleasing to see the efforts of an ambitious county being rewarded. Yet it was slightly disconcerting to see domestic cricket's showpiece event being dominated by players who are currently unavailable to the England selectors.
Hampshire's competitive total was built around a superb hundred from Sean Ervine, and his 134-run second-wicket partnership with Nic Pothas. John Crawley and Pothas gave Hampshire an excellent start, after Knight surprisingly chose to bowl on winning the toss. At one stage they looked set to post a score of 320. But Hampshire, like Warwickshire later in the day, failed to capitalise fully on the work of the top three batsmen and lost nine wickets for 99 runs.
Ervine toured England with Zimbabwe in 2003 but has refused to play for them since the contractual dispute which tore the national team apart in 2004. Working regulations currently allow Ervine to play professionally in both England and Australia without being considered as an overseas player, but should he continue to play as he has for Hampshire this summer it will not be long before the selectors start showing an interest in him as a one-day cricketer.
"I have aspirations to play international cricket again," said Ervine after collecting the man-of-the-match award. "But we will have to see whether it is for England or Australia. This has been the best day of my life. Hampshire have given me a wonderful opportunity so at the moment it is leading England's way."
Pothas is a South African who realised he was not going to play for the national side and chose to maximise his earning potential in county cricket. The 31-year-old wicketkeeper qualifies to play for England this winter and, after an excellent summer, could put Geraint Jones under pressure.
Warwickshire's collapse was instigated by Andy Bichel and Shane Watson. The Australian pair shared six wickets, and Watson was instrumental in the run-out of Jonathan Trott.
Watson still harbours ambitions of playing for Australia in the final Test at The Oval. He said: "I would love to be able to play in the fifth Test, it is a massive Test, the biggest in Australian cricket for a long time. But all I can do is play my best for Hampshire and put my name up there as often as I can."
Hampshire's acting captain, Shaun Udal, who was deputising for the unavailable Shane Warne, admitted Bell's cramp helped his side. "No doubt that incident helped us," Udal said. "His mobility was affected and it is very difficult for new batters to score at seven, eight, nine an over."
Knight also said it was the turning point. "Their score was about par, we would have to play well to chase it down but we were in a good position when Belly's cramp hit him and it didn't help our cause," he said.
"You are never quite sure whether to send the guy off and let him recover or let him carry on. He seemed to think it was OK to play but he couldn't run, so maybe in hindsight we should have got someone else in. Weighing it up we thought if he could hit a couple out of the park and put on another 50 runs it would be game over."
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