Warwickshire answer the critics

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Warwickshire 282 and 294

Middlesex 224 and 137

Warwickshire win by 215 runs

This was a victory from which Warwickshire will have drawn considerable satisfaction, given that many pundits have had the temerity to make Middlesex favourites for the Championship. What better way to begin the defence of their crown than to see off the chief pretender?

For a team that won so much last summer, Warwickshire have been credited with very little, save for the good fortune to have wound up with Brian Lara, rather than Manoj Prabhakar, as their overseas player. This irks them in no small measure. It is something that could cause them a complex. But rather than bleat, far better that they answer the sniping on the field, which they have done convincingly enough in this contest, defeating the 1993 champions by 215 runs.

The fearsome bowling of Allan Donald is, beyond argument, the single largest factor, enabling Warwickshire to establish a lead of 58 on the first innings which would have been greater still but for the high-class resistance offered by Mark Ramprakash on Friday. But they are no more a one man team now than they were with Lara in their midst. To Donald's eight wickets should be added 157 runs in the match from the new left- hander, Nick Knight. And do not overlook Trevor Penney's application on Saturday, when his solid graft built a platform for success.

Yesterday Donald again stirred widespread unease, causing Dion Nash to leave the field for a time after hitting the New Zealander on the side of the head. Nash keeled over dramatically although, fortunately, the damage was only temporary.

For the most part, on a turning pitch, Warwickshire were more than happy to give rein to their spinners. Not that Middlesex were any less inclined to surrender in what they should regard as a fairly dismal performance.

Resuming at 60 for 1, they probably saw 353 as an unrealistic target, but to lose all their remaining wickets for 77 was poor, none the less.

Ramprakash and Mike Gatting might have made Warwickshire work harder had their partnership put down roots, but that possibility vanished after the fifth ball of the morning when Ramprakash inexplicably chanced a single to mid-on off Gladstone Small and was comfortably run out by Roger Twose.

Small then defeated John Carr's drive, Donald held a head- high return catch from Paul Weekes, Gatting played on off a bottom edge and Middlesex were 68 for 5 in next to no time, from which there was no coming back. Nash, senses restored, offered some resistance with John Emburey before Neil Smith lured Phil Tufnell into an easy stumping.