Donald seals two-day triumph

COUNTY CHAMPIONSHIP: Warwickshire strengthen claims to keep title while Middlesex gamble
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reports from Edgbaston

Warwickshire 278 & 11-0 Gloucestershire 124 & 162 Warwicks win by 10 wickets

Andrew Symonds did his explosive best to prevent the champions finishing this match in two days: batting twice in the day, as Gloucestershire followed on, he hit one six and 14 fours in an aggregate score of 76, off 75 balls.

While this was happening the Test and County Board announced that Symonds, Birmingham-born but Queensland-schooled, would not be available for an England tour this winter. The new qualilification rule adopted by the International Council states that anyone playing for a junior national team (Symonds played for Australia Under-19 in February- March 1994) must now wait two years before he can re-qualify for another country.

This means that the 20-year-old could play for England from next March and he can return to Gloucestershire as he signed the county contract under the former rule. Only he knows which cap he will prefer and all he would say yesterday was that the Australian Board had told him of the two-year rule.

Ironically Symonds is due at a Marble Arch hotel tonight to receive his statuette as England's Young er of the Year, to qualify for which a player must be registered for England, which he was, by TCCB ruling, until yesterday.

Symonds' defiance here was exciting but hardly responsible. With Tim Munton off the field in the second innings, nursing a side strain that makes him doubtful for tomorrow's NatWest final, Gloucestershire needed someone to dig in alongside Tony Wright.

They were in trouble overnight, still 224 behind with four wickets gone. The innings lasted another 22 overs, Dermot Reeve bowling himself at the start and not calling on Allan Donald until 12 overs had gone. By then Reeve had dismissed the nightwatchman and Monte Lynch.

Donald, with a superb exhibition of fast bowling, flattened the tail, with four wickets in five overs, including that of Symonds, who had just driven Munton for four boundaries. Keith Piper took six catches.

The pitch was less responsive yesterday but the odd ball did enough to keep the batsman nervous. Gloucestershire started again 35 minutes before lunch, Munton bowling one ball and then departing, leaving Dougie Brown, his injured left hand strapped, to take over and to have Matt Windows caught behind.

Donald trapped Tim Hancock leg before in the first over after lunch, Lynch played on and Mark Alleyne fell to a ball that seamed. In came our hero again, turning his attention this time to Reeve, who went for 6-4- 4-4-4-1 in one over. Was the captain downhearted? He called up the left- arm Ashley Giles and told him to bowl over the wicket into the rough outside leg stump; twice Symonds tried to glance without getting the full blade to the ball; the third attempt cost him his leg stump.

That left the imperturbable Wright, Jack Russell and the tail to prolong resistance. Russell went to a slip catch off Neil Smith, Wright had the satisfaction of making Warwickshire bat again by hoisting Giles to square leg before being eighth out, after nearly four hours, when confounded by Donald.

The off-spinner, Smith, aided by some well-judged catches at long on, left Donald to knock out Jon Lewis's middle stump, the proper way to end an innings. At 5.40 Warwickshire were knocking off the runs for their third two-day win - the form of champions.