Giles spins a new record

<preform>Middlesex 298 and 246<br>Warwickshire 430 and 115-3<br>Warwickshire win by 7 wickets</preform>
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The Independent Online

It is a comeback that simply keeps going on and on. To infinity and beyond, à la Buzz Lightyear, might be pushing it a bit but if Ashley Giles can sustain it, ooh, say to mid-September, that might just take care of the Ashes, which at present only feel as though they are an infinity, or a light year at least, away from England's grasp.

It is a comeback that simply keeps going on and on. To infinity and beyond, à la Buzz Lightyear, might be pushing it a bit but if Ashley Giles can sustain it, ooh, say to mid-September, that might just take care of the Ashes, which at present only feel as though they are an infinity, or a light year at least, away from England's grasp.

In navigating Warwickshire to a position from which victory was virtually assured yesterday, Giles took his wicket tally for the season to 24. No bowler in history has taken more wickets in April in England and if that is largely because the season always used to start in May, the achievement should not be derided.

Warwickshire, the defending Champions, are top of the table again and cruising for the moment, having won two matches from three. What Giles has done with April wickets, the starlet Ian Bell has done with April runs.

Before he started his second innings on the final afternoon, the 433 he had made in six previous innings this season, including a luminous 231 in the first innings here, made him the month's heaviest scorer of all time in this country.

His compact, unbeaten 47 made it 480 and ensured that the Bears won by seven wickets. They could yet retain their Championship but equally could yet have to do without both Giles and Bell.

Giles has become a bowler who expects to take wickets, sure that he is doing the right thing. In reaching this pleasant condition, he has invented a new form of bowling that effectively has turned defence into attack. On a turning pitch, he was altogether too canny for Middlesex yesterday.

Barely a year ago, Giles thought he was all washed up. If wickets were few, confidence and optimism were in shorter supply. The critics were letting loose with both barrels as a matter of course and Giles was considering retirement. In a state reaching desperation he approached England's psychologist and began keeping a diary in which he vented his spleen and frustration.

The power transmitted by writing your thoughts in little black books should not be underestimated. At Trent Bridge, when the wheel began to turn once more in his direction, he embraced his friend, the England captain Michael Vaughan, and relief and loyalty were entwined. In England's 10 Test matches since then, he has taken 39 wickets at under 30 runs each.

The idea of his becoming one of Wisden's five Cricketers Of The Year was risible last June, yet by October he was an obvious choice. He was ready for the start of this summer: a tough winter in South Africa was followed by adequate rest and recuperation. Come April, Giles wanted to play again.

He took nine wickets in his first match, eight in the second and seven in the third including his 6 for 91 yesterday. He bowled 38 overs unchanged from the City End in all, 24 on Friday evening, 14 more yesterday before giving way to the second new ball for two overs. Throughout, he bowled over the wicket as he has done for most of the season.

This mode of attack from a slow left-arm bowler remains anathema to stick-in-the-mud purists who can always be spotted because they look perpetually as though they are choking on a bacon sandwich.

But Giles delivers so close to the stumps and bowls such a line that he invariably ensures the batsmen have to play. Australia take note - but not too many notes please, since they may make a secret weapon look like a popgun.

With plenty of encouragement from the Edgbaston pitch he put constant doubts into Middlesex minds, irritating them into mistakes. The prospect of Middlesex batting long enough to ensure the draw was real but Giles bowled Owais Shah round his legs early on and shortly afterwards had Scott Styris snaffled at silly mid-off.

Only Ed Joyce, who is in prime form, threatened to stay around long enough to make the chase little other than a formality. But he was excellently caught by Dougie Brown at backward short leg, low to his left rocking back on his heels. Joyce, who batted for three hours, did not quite connect but there was enough bat on it to make lesser fielders turn their back.

The Champions were left with 115 to win and although they lost three wickets in doing so, Bell was not among them. Soon he may be contemplating 1,000 runs before the end of May and his elevation to England is a case of when, not if.

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