Tim Ambrose has stepped in to defend his coach from mounting criticism as double relegation came a step close for Warwickshire.

A nine-wicket defeat to Surrey means Warwickshire could win their final championship game and still go down, resulting in increased speculation about the future of the club's director of coaching, Mark Greatbatch.

Ambrose, the side's stand-in captain, suggested that the players should be the ones on the receiving end of the criticism, however. "We - the players - are responsible for our performances," Ambrose said. "The buck stops with us. The criticism we get for our poor performances is warranted and we want to do better in a big way. It was good for the players to see the passion of the supporters [at the members' forum last week]. It's great that they have that passion and we appreciate their feelings. But we're not blind, we know that our performances haven't been good enough.

"The batting has let us down in the last four or five games. Confidence is one factor, but the guys are well aware that it's not good enough.

"The one good thing is that you learn from your mistakes. We will learn from these experiences. To a man, we will be better cricketers for going through this period. The supporters will see the benefits of this.

"We're all under pressure. Nobody could, or should, fault the effort of the players. We're desperate to correct things."

Are they all, though? Upon joining the club from Derbyshire, Ant Botha said "it's not the end of the world" if Warwickshire are relegated. True, of course, but it's hard to imagine Dougie Brown uttering such a phrase. Relegation should hurt. Derbyshire's players may settle for second division cricket; Warwickshire's should not.

Meanwhile the director of cricket, Greatbatch, referred to Warwickshire's final championship game of the season, starting at Old Trafford tomorrow, as the side's "Test Match."

"It's crucial for the club to try to win the game," he said. "They're going for the championship; we're trying to stay up. We'll be tested.

"But we played solid cricket against them at the start of the season and I feel the spirit in our group is good even though we're being beaten."

Greatbatch accepted for the first time that the team had not made progress this season and accepted that his own position is jeopardy.

"As a whole, I'd have to say no [there hasn't been an improvement]," he said. "There's a core group at this club. We just need to strengthen in some areas with good quality players - if we can get them - and if we can win something it can ignite a momentum. There's a lot of character in the dressing room, but we're not quite performing as we would have liked.

"Time will tell [over his future]. It's difficult. It's a challenge. We'll have to get next week's games out of the way before I comment further. I'm calm now and, in a funny way, I am still enjoying things."

When calm Greatbatch remains constructive and an asset. Yet under pressure he soon betrays traces of the belligerence that does him no favours. Asked whether he was surprised by the hostile reception he received at the club 'forum' last week, he countered: "Not really. There were some good questions, but there was a lot of beer drunk beforehand and there were some idiots there."

He has a point, of course. But those 'idiots' are a portion of the club's members - his employers - and his words will do little to win them over. The captain may do all he can to protect his coach, but in end, Greatbatch position is surely beyond salvation.

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