Loudon clears path to victory

Middlesex 323 and 330 Warwicks 272 and 383-7 (Warwickshire win by 3 wickets)

More importantly, they had Alex Loudon at the crease. He was a picture of determination and application as he patiently inched Warwickshire towards their historic triumph. Back in 1951, the Midland county had set the previous mark for the highest fourth innings total against Middlesex. This outdid that by some margin.

Loudon, a former Kent batsman, has begun to blossom since quitting the Garden of England. While he has yet to score a Championship hundred, he got extremely close yesterday and at least had the satisfaction of making his highest score in the competition and easily his highest for Warwickshire. Oddly, his previous best (92) had been made against Warwickshire last season.

Loudon's value rests not just with his batting, though. He has also proved himself a competent off-spinner, as his 21 wickets this summer bear witness. He will make someone a wonderful all-rounder one of these days.

His captain, Nick Knight, said: "We signed him because we thought he was a pretty special talent." Yesterday, Loudon applied that talent to making Middlesex miserable.

His chanceless innings encompassed two significant partnerships. The first, of 41 with Dougie Brown for the sixth wicket, lifted Warwickshire clear of some troubled water after three men had departed, including Knight, on whom had rested serious hopes for victory. Two of those wickets fell to fine catches in the deep by Ed Smith, Loudon's friend who also left Kent last season and is thriving in pastures new.

Brown's breezy innings upped the pressure on the fielding side, but just when he was looking settled he pushed uncertainly at a delivery from slow left-armer Chris Peploe and Ed Joyce snapped up the catch at silly mid-off.

Thankfully, another newcomer this season steadied the ship. Luke Parker, still a student, revealed some touches of batting class as he stoutly supported Loudon for more than an hour. Their eighth-wicket stand was worth 63, by which time Loudon had been out in the middle for three and a half hours.

In all, he faced 148 balls and hit a dozen boundaries. More importantly, he hit the right note for Warwickshire and hauled them away from the dropping zone.

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