Inverarity nudges Warwickshire upwards

Warwickshire 502-6 dec Kent 297 and 23-0 Match drawn

John Inverarity is a tall, slim, silver-haired Australian in his early sixties. By nature, he is discreet and undemonstrative, but he was looking remarkably pleased with himself yesterday. He coaches Warwickshire, who were frustrated by rain, but retain a very comfortable lead of 27 points in the Championship.

But this was not why Inverarity was looking smug. He was simply watching Australia's rugby players demolish the world champions. "Great tries," he said, and recommended a look at the replays.

There was plenty of time to watch. Beckenham in south-east London was one of only three places in the country where county cricket was played yesterday, but it was severely rationed. Basically, what happened was that each side got one more bonus point, though Kent fell three runs short of a third batting point when they were out, 205 in arrears. Andrew Symonds, who scored more than half of Kent's runs, hitting 21 fours and four sixes in 156 not out, was the only distinguished thing about Kent's innings.

Kent followed on, but 35 remaining overs were too few to enable Warwickshire's diminished bowling attack to break through. The game was a rain-ruined draw, and the most interesting thing about it was to try to understand why Warwickshire are doing so well. Ed Smith, the Kent batsman, points at Inverarity. "That's why," he says. Smith knows.

Inverarity coached him at Kent a few years ago. "He notices everything," says Smith. When he identifies a flaw in a player's game, he corrects it quietly and in private.

Inverarity is a teacher, literally so. He was headmaster of a private school in Perth until he retired a couple of years ago. Teaching school is what he would rather be doing now, but he told himself he would stop after 15 years, and so he did.

Warwickshire picked him as their coach, and their players are the beneficiaries.

Ask him why Warwickshire are in a purple patch and there is, as you have come to expect, no dramatic explanation. He says it is because the players are slowly improving, and performing best where it counts - in the middle. This shows in the statistics; they are not yet awesome but they promise to be, and they help to explain the team's success.

In nine matches they have scored more than 500 runs in the first innings no less than five times. In three others they got more than 400. Nick Knight, their injured skipper, averages 99.56 in the Championship; Ian Bell 59.50, Jonathan Trott 58.38, and Mark Wagh 46.50. They have accumulated 38 batting points, six more than any other First Division county.

Smith makes the point that able young batsmen are chipping in with useful wickets: Bell has 12 at 20.58; Wagh has 10, though not so cheaply. This is particularly useful because Brad Hogg, the spinner from Western Australia, is performing better as a batsman (4 for 90 here were his best figures of the season by far). The overseas fast bowlers - Heath Streak and Dewald Pretorius - are injured, but they still have managed one more bowling point than anyone else.

Bell's good season has provoked speculation about promotion to the England team. His teacher is not convinced. Bell is promising, Inverarity reports, but he is still a learner who would get no favours by being pushed into the England squad too soon. He would be happy to share the news with the selectors, but apparently they don't ask. Perhaps they should spend more time chewing the fat while the rain falls on county cricket.

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