Warwickshire left to wait

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The Independent Online
reports from Edgbaston

Derbyshire 268 & 122 Warwicks 387-8 dec & 5-0 Warwicks win by 10 wickets

Warwickshire expended more nervous energy clustered around a transistor radio than they did in disposing of Derbyshire yesterday, and in the end, the sound of escaping gas from the Edgbaston dressing-room came not from the neck of a champagne bottle, but a deflationary hiss from the home players.

Having completed their own business before lunch, Warwickshire's day ended with a nasty bout of indigestion after Middlesex, within one run of conceding the 1995 County Championship to last year's winners, sneaked home against Leicestershire to prolong the contest into the last round of matches beginning on Thursday.

Warwickshire, who travel to Canterbury to take on Kent, remain favourites to retain the Championship, although their lead of 15 points will require them to win the match to make certain should Middlesex take maximum points off Somerset at Taunton.

In most seasons, Warwickshire would this morning have been nursing such a celebration hangover that they would neither have been able to read a route map to Canterbury, nor indeed have been too bothered about getting there at all. However, 13 wins out of 16, and 41 points more than they needed to win the title last summer, has not been quite enough to shake off Middlesex.

Warwickshire's end of season form has been so spectacular that this was the fourth time in their last five games that they have won by 10 wickets (the other was by an innings) and the result was more or less inevitable after Allan Donald had rattled out Derbyshire's top three batsmen (3 for 0 in eight balls) in the final half-hour on Saturday.

When Donald coats his cheeks with zinc on mornings as grey and autumnal as yesterday, there is just the suspicion that it has more to do with making himself look a bit fiercer than deep concern about holes in the Birmingham ozone layer, but there is no fast bowler in the land less in need of intimidatory props than Donald.

Yesterday, he was so fired up that he even let rip a huge appeal for lbw when Chris Adams drove him through the covers for four, but this sort of front-foot liberty was pretty rare even on a paceless pitch, and two more wickets took him to 83 for the season at an average of only 20 runs apiece.

The 83rd, a stump splintering yorker, was also the last of the match, and almost certainly the last wicket Donald will ever take at Edgbaston. He is shortly to confirm that he will not return as emergency cover should Brian Lara retire to his hammock next season, and Donald's volume of international commitments makes it unlikely that he will ever be back as a player.

Derbyshire, resuming at 31 for 3, lost their last seven wickets for 91 in 85 minutes, statistics which tell their own story about their willingness to get their heads down and graft it out. Adams' idea of a dogfight was to loft Neil Smith for six and then hit the next one straight to mid-off. Dermot Reeve then took 3 for 0 in six balls, against a series of wafts which suggested the only thing Derbyshire were interested in beating was the rush-hour traffic.


P W L D Bat Bwl Tot

Warwicks 16 13 2 1 45 60 313

Middlesex 16 12 2 2 47 59 298

FINAL MATCHES (Thursday): Kent v Warwickshire (Canterbury); Somerset v Middlesex (Taunton).