Warwickshire go top but pitch is questioned

By Jon Culley at Edgbaston
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Warwickshire's joy at moving at least temporarily into pole position in the County Championship, was tempered by a three-hour wait before being cleared of preparing an unfit pitch after they had defeated their neighbours Worcestershire with more than a day to spare.

Even though more than 1,100 runs were scored in the match, the batsmen had to contend with variable bounce throughout, several losing their wicket to balls that virtually shot along the ground after pitching, others being undone by sharply steep bounce. Despite that, Warwickshire escaped with nothing more than a "below average" mark.

The verdict, delivered by England and Wales Cricket Board pitch liaison officer, David Hughes, on behalf of a three-man panel, was at odds with how Tom Moody, Worcestershire's director of cricket, assessed the condition of groundsman Steve Rouse's track.

"It was a poor surface that you should not be playing first-class cricket on," Moody said. "County cricket is supposed to prepare players for Test matches, but all you are going to get out of a pitch like that is a broken thumb or a broken toe. When balls are taking off on a length or hitting the bottom of the stumps, it is unacceptable."

Moody, along with Worcestershire's captain, Ben Smith, was among the seven individuals interviewed by Hughes, fellow PLO Peter Walker and ECB pitches consultant Chris Wood. Umpires John Hampshire and Roy Palmer, Warwickshire captain Nick Knight and coach John Inverarity, as well as Rouse, were also called.

Warwickshire had wrapped up a nine-wicket victory before tea. Earlier, they had dismissed Worcestershire for 185, the visitors losing their last five wickets for 29, after resuming at 70 for 2 overnight. It left Warwickshire with a modest target of 160 to claim maximum points.

Ironically, Knight (83) and opening partner Mark Wagh (63 not out), were largely untroubled in putting on 152 in 37 overs, although it was another shooter that stopped Knight 17 runs short of a century, from carrying his bat.