Gloomy outlook for Warwickshire

COUNTY CHAMPIONSHIP: Cullinan gives champions hard time n Northamptonsh ire stay in the hunt n Middlesex in a hurry
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The Independent Online

reports from Edgbaston

Derbyshire 268 Warwickshire 19-1

As an obstacle to Warwickshire's successful defence of their County Championship, the Peakites would normally represent more of a molehill than a mountain, but after prolonged exposure to bad weather and Daryll Cullinan, the Bears will have to jump off the skateboard and into a pair of climbing boots if they want to win this game.

Derbyshire, without Devon Malcolm and Phillip DeFreitas among others, came here on the back of three consecutive defeats, but Cullinan's high- class century yesterday took them to a total of 268, which is a good deal better than it looks given the prevailing conditions. By way of demonstration, Dominic Cork removed Nick Knight with the first ball of Warwickshire's innings.

The pitch spent the whole of the first day, and the first hour of the second, snoozing quietly underneath the covers, and when Edgbaston's king- sized eiderdown was finally tugged off, it woke up in a bit of grumpy mood.

At this stage of the summer, Warwickshire were hardly likely to have prepared a pitch for a run orgy. The chosen surface is the same one used for a low-scoring one-day game on Tuesday, and was the one area of Edgbaston that appeared to be off-limits to a succession of school tours, possibly on the grounds that it was not the sort of thing that young children should be exposed to.

Although there was negligible pace, the bounce was decidedly untrustworthy. By the time Cullinan had scratched out his guard, Derbyshire had lost three batsmen for 35 runs, all of them caught off the splice.

Two of them fell to Allan Donald, who went on to take his tally of Championship wickets to 78 (average 16) and who has, not surprisingly, been courted as standby replacement for Brian Lara next summer after the West Indian complained of wanting to spend more time with his agent. Sorry, with his feet up.

The trouble is, that is what South Africa (with more than 100 days of international cricket in 17 months from November) want for Donald as well, and this led yesterday to a curious statement from the club that Donald has yet to decide whether to accept a playing contract for 1996. Curious in that Donald has already penned an article in his yet-to-be-published local newspaper column saying that he will only return - as originally agreed - as bowling/fitness coach.

Cullinan, while no doubt grateful that he plays for the same side as Donald in international cricket, showed him scant respect here yesterday and, on a pitch almost as dubious as the light, his 121 from 167 balls was a notable effort.

He scored 20 fours and one six, and, with the help of overthrows, one seven. It was such a good innings, in fact, that he would be a natural to replace Andrew Symonds in the Test and County Cricket Board's multi- national England A team to tour Pakistan this winter, should Symonds finally decide not to accept the invitation traditionally reserved for those players filed in the burgeoning draw marked: "Okay, I'm not English, but a bloke's got to make a living".