Donald is quick fix

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The Independent Online
By Derek Pringle

at Trent Bridge

Nottinghamshire 166 & 272

Warwickshire 414 & 28-0

Warwicks won by 10 wickets

IF Warwickshire, who yesterday went top of the pile after demolishing Nottinghamshire by 10 wickets, should end up retaining the County Championship this season, then they will surely acknowledge Allan Donald as this summer's guiding star. So far, the athletic paceman has taken 62 wickets in the Championship, though his unrelenting pace often means his effectiveness benefits those who bowl in his wake.

Perversely, this was to be Donald's last playing season with the county, though many felt the South African, a firm favourite since his arrival in 1987, had been unfairly treated in the wake of Brian Lara's three-year contract. His subsequent employment as a bowling and fitness coach will have appeased some of the dissenters. But Lara's recent plea to be released from the first year of his new contract in order to rest has reopened the bowler v batsman debate.

The dilemma is one Warwickshire supporters will have been weighing up for some time. Once he had arrived last season, Lara's superstar status and rapid and stylish run-scoring meant that the spotlight was never far away. The attention clearly flattered Warwickshire, who won an unprecedented three trophies, though none of the one-day titles had Lara's mark on them.

Even the Championship wasn't quite the domineering stamping ground it was made out to be for the Trinidadian. Once his monolithic 501 is taken away, he only scored 170 more runs than Roger Twose, though admittedly at an enhanced rate.

Lara's input at county level has everything to do with style and kudos and nothing to do with the daily grind that makes people like Donald and Tim Munton such well-regarded team men. If the decent-minded Donald has any sense, he'll ignore the guidance offered by Ali Bacher and Co - who want him to rest up away from Test duty - and agree to play for Warwickshire next year, but only after negotiating a two-year coaching contract with the club that culminates in a well-deserved benefit in 1998. Tough negotiation is the only way.

Warwickshire need Donald's pace badly. Away from the lethal, uneven speed-tracks of Edgbaston, where he has taken 35 Championship wickets, Donald has still managed to spearhead successfully an attack that, until Munton's return in early June, lacked depth of seam.

This value was again apparent yesterday when he split a burgeoning 151 partnership between Paul Johnson and Chris Cairns by uprooting the New Zealander's middle stump straight after lunch. Cairns had been in superb form, powerfully striking five sixes and eight fours in a commanding 83.

Johnson, too, was irresistible, his stand-and-deliver style preventing the visitors from ever being able to cruise as he cut and lofted into gaps in the parched outfield. He remained unbeaten on 120 when the Notts innings ended with nine wickets down - Colin Banton unable to resume,having had his left wrist broken by a Donald delivery earlier in the day. With the remainder of the tail quickly capitulating, Warwickshire were left needing 25 to win, a task their openers eagerly completed.