The decline of Warwickshire continues so alarmingly that it will be an achievement if a season which began with high expectations on all fronts does not end in a double relegation. Already down in the Pro40 League, their survival in Division One of the Championship is in the balance.
Since beginning the campaign with two wins in their first three matches, Darren Maddy's team have not won in 11. Given that next-to-bottom Kent have two matches left after this round, to their one, Warwickshire need to go into their final fixture against title-chasing Lancashire this week with the insurance of a victory over Surrey. The odds are against them, however, after their second-innings dismissal for 264 left Surrey with a target of 177.
Against a modest Surrey attack, lacking the match-winning talents of the injured Harbhajan Singh, they made hard work of chiselling out a worthwhile advantage. Harbhajan's stand-in, the 32-year-old Pakistan-born off-spinner Murtaza Hussain, found bounce and turn to dismiss Tim Ambrose, Ant Botha and Alfonso Thomas in claiming debut figures of 3 for 50.
Trailing by 88 on first innings, Warwickshire surrendered five wickets before they had posted a lead of 100, suggesting they would wind up with not nearly enough against opponents who, for all their shortcomings, can at least rely on Mark Ramprakash to score runs.
The former England batsman has already distinguished this contest with his 95th century on his 400th first-class appearance, going on to reach 175 and taking his Surrey average against Warwickshire to 103.33 in 16 innings.
Warwickshire at least secured a third bowling point when Surrey resumed at 344 for 8 yesterday morning, a leading edge from the first delivery of the day seeing Hussain caught at backward point. However, even though only 11 balls remained of the first 130 overs, they could not deny Surrey a third batting point.
Surrey then gave the home side every chance of giving their second innings a flying start, captain Mark Butcher dropping Michael Powell at first slip on one and James Benning spilling a straightforward chance at third slip to let Ian Westwood escape on three.
Powell's error was not especially costly, the former captain carving Matt Nicholson straight to point for 13. Westwood exacted a heavier price, going on to make a bright 79 off 90 balls before allowing Benning to make amends with a catch at backward point.
By then Warwickshire were 34 in front and only two wickets down, but they failed miserably to build on it, losing their next eight wickets for 101. Jim Troughton (43) and Neil Carter (27) swelled the total, but it still looked too small to defend.Reuse content