Warwickshire 173 & 225 Lancashire 317 & 84-3: Keedy puts Warwickshire in a spin to send Lancashire top

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The Independent Online

Warwickshire had chosen to bat first here so they could avoid facing Gary Keedy in the fourth innings on a dry pitch. Strategically speaking, it was a move that brought limited benefits. Exposed to Lancashire's left-arm spinner in the third innings, their submission could scarcely have been more painful, Keedy taking 6 for 81 as the Red Rose county seized the chance to go top of the Championship table, winning with a day to spare.

Keedy, the 31-year-old Yorkshireman now in his 12th season at Old Trafford, shares with his team-mate, Glen Chapple, a sense of under-recognition. A first-class record of 430 wickets at around 31 runs each compares reasonably well, say, with Ashley Giles (530 in 14 seasons at 29 runs each), yet Keedy has never been picked for an A tour, let alone a chance with the senior England side.

Keedy's supporters would argue, with a reasonable volume of evidence to back them up, that their man is the more frequent match-winner. This was a case in point, Keedy's capacity for deception helping engineer a Warwickshire collapse that left Lancashire to score 82 yesterday evening to leapfrog Sussex and Hampshire into first place.

The figures were his best in the Championship since he took 6 for 60 against Derbyshire last May as Lancashire began their march to the Second Division title. The excitement growing at the prospect of taking the major prize for the first time for 56 years ought to be treated with caution, but they are clearly a side with the necessary potential.

Youthful promise is balanced by a solid measure of experience, the value of which could not have been more forcefully underlined after the efforts of 34-year-old Dominic Cork (6- for 53) and 37-year-old Stuart Law (121) preceded Keedy's decisive contribution yesterday.

It took him eight fairly ordinary overs to make an impact, Mark Wagh edging a catch to forward short-leg. But when Brad Hodge, enjoying a rare extended chance to twirl his offspin, made the important breakthrough by defeating Nick Knight with the arm ball, Keedy was galvanised to the extent of claiming the next four wickets, all leg before, mainly with ones that kept a little low and straightened.

Hodge chipped in with his best Lancashire figures (3- for 21) before Keedy wrapped things up as the captain Mark Chilton held a good catch at silly point.

The target left was modest, although had Giles, Alex Loudon, or the unfortunate Daniel Vettori, been available to the home side, Lancashire might have endured a nervous time.

In the event, although three wickets did fall, when Law lofted Moeen Ali for six over midwicket in the day's penultimate scheduled over the job was done.

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