Knight holds firm to stretch lead at top

Warwickshire 499 & 124-2 Lancashire 508 (Match drawn)

An inhospitable midsummer day brought the Swan's Nest Lane ground's debut as a Championship venue to a miserable end yesterday but left Warwickshire happy enough with the outcome, the 11 points gained stretching their lead at the top to 28 points.

An inhospitable midsummer day brought the Swan's Nest Lane ground's debut as a Championship venue to a miserable end yesterday but left Warwickshire happy enough with the outcome, the 11 points gained stretching their lead at the top to 28 points.

Next come Kent, whom Warwickshire meet at Beckenham starting tomorrow. Victory there and Nick Knight's team may take some catching as they attempt to bring the title to Edgbaston for the first time since 1995.

Knight would rather play down his side's prospects, preferring instead to talk about the "development of a young and inexperienced team". But as long as the former England batsman maintains his current rich run of form, they will remain live contenders.

In all forms of cricket, the 34-year-old left-hander has accumulated 1,013 runs in his last 11 visits to the crease. Three weeks ago at Lord's, he made an unbeaten triple hundred in the Championship, and he is averaging 99.5 in the competition this season.

Yesterday's abandonment after a mid-afternoon thunderstorm left him unbeaten on 67, his sixth consecutive score of 50 or more in four-day cricket, and consigned the match to a result that had looked inevitable.

A flat pitch and short boundaries had made for batsman-friendly conditions, and though the spinners found them helpful, the loss of 76 overs in the first three days increased the odds against a positive result.

Not that Warwickshire, without Heath Streak in their attack, were inclined to offer their opponents a chance. They needed only 20 deliveries to take Lancashire's two remaining first-innings wickets yesterday morning but, while watchful of Gary Keedy, who turned one sharply to have Ian Bell caught behind, were thereafter content to bat out time. The only disappointment for spectators was that Mark Wagh, out for 167 first time around, could make only 18 before edging John Wood to first slip.

* In the Second Division, Derbyshire's Hassan Adnan andMohammad Ali could not prevent Nottinghamshire from wrapping up their fifth straight Championship win. The seamer Charlie Shreck claimed 6 for 103 in Derbyshire's second innings but Adnan's 129 not out and Ali's cameo 50 pushed the visitors to a total of 355 to force Nottinghamshire to bat again. Darren Bicknell and Jason Gallian safely knocked off the 25 runs required to give the hosts victory by 10 wickets with eight overs to spare.

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