DGBASTON: Warwickshire (1pt) v Glamorgan (1pt) – match abandoned
It might not have been quite the way they wanted to do it, but Warwickshire have secured a home quarter-final in the Twenty20 Cup.
Only 52 deliveries were possible in the match, but the point from the abandonment means Warwickshire will top the table come what may after tonight’s final group game, against Northants at Edgbaston. Given fair weather, the quarter-final should earn the club around £50,000. What is more, it means they are only two games from the multi-million pound jackpot of the champions league. Whether that promises to be a mirage remains to be seen.
Glamorgan had slightly the better of the early exchanges but, given Warwickshire’s excellent form in the competition to date, only a brave man would have bet against them.
Indeed, if they beat Northants tonight they will have equalled the club record in the competition of seven wins in a row. The overall record, held by Surrey, is 13 wins in a row, recorded between June 2003 and July 2004.
Some of the gloss was taken off the achievement, however, by the news that David Sales has declined the opportunity to join Warwickshire. Instead he has signed a four-year contract extension with Northants.
That news is sure to cause a fresh outbreak of wailing and gnashing of teeth at Edgbaston. He joins a long list of leading players to resist the lure of the club in recent times (Darren Gough, Andy Caddick, Jon Lewis, Graham Swann, Ryan Sidebottom, Min Patel, Luke Sutton, Paul Horton et al) and, bearing in mind the large salary (£100,000+) and much-improved environment at Warwickshire, his decision is a disappointment.
It might be wrong to read too much into it, however. Many factors make up such a decision and it could simply be that family factors and an admirable sense of loyalty are behind Sales’ conclusion.
Besides, Warwickshire have performed superbly to remain the only unbeaten side at this stage of the competition and, perhaps, don’t require much reinforcement. After losing the first choice opening pair of Sanath Jayasuriya and Darren Maddy in the lead-up to the tournament, their original plans were scuppered and they were forced into a rethink. They have emerged a tighter, better organised and more united team than could have been imagined.
“I suppose you could say we made a negative into a positive,” Ashley Giles, director of cricket, explained. “It forced us to plan that much harder and is a lesson to us what can be achieved if we do that.”
Crucial to the success has been the spin partnership of Ian Salisbury and Ant Botha. The pair are first and second respectively in the list of the most economical (regular) bowlers in this season’s competition (conceding just 5.2 and 5.4 an over) and have ensured that Warwickshire have conceded more than 160 only once.
A note of caution should be sounded to all those who believe that all the tough days at Edgbaston are in the past, however. It should be remembered that the club’s record for successive Twenty20 wins was set between July 2006 and July 2007, under Mark Greatbatch, and that Warwickshire reached the quarter-final stages of the competition last year.
Warwickshire received another boost yesterday with the news that Ian Bell will play in the championship game against Gloucestershire starting on Sunday.
Bearing in mind that Warwickshire are without both openers (Maddy and Ian Westwood), that is a substantial bonus. It is understood that Bell requested to take part as it will be his only chance for a four-day game before the Test series against South Africa begins.
Navdeep Poonia will also be available for that game. Warwickshire have withdrawn him from the Scotland squad to play in the Associates Tri-Series match against Ireland on Wednesday, but he will still be available for the ODI against New Zealand on Thursday.
One man who may not be available for the championship game, however, is Naqaash Tahir. The swing bowler sustained a back injury in action for the seconds yesterday and was able to deliver only four overs. His participation on Sunday is, therefore, in doubt.
Tim Ambrose is also unlikely to play as he is suffering from a sore thumb.
Jimmy Anyon is also a doubt, as he has an ankle injury. He has verbally agreed his two-year contract offer, however, while Neil Carter and Giles have held further talks about the all-rounder’s future. “He’s keen to stay and we’re keen to have him,” Giles said. It would be a shock if Carter were to depart.
Meanwhile, off the pitch, the England and Wales Cricket Board are making plans for the future shape of English cricket. Even though the much-vaunted market research has hardly begun, it is appears that the ECB have made up their mind.
The format of the championship is, I fear, almost certain to be altered to accommodate three ‘conferences’, with promotion and relegation replaced by knock-out stages. Counties will certainly play at least one fewer championship match.
Scientific it may not be, but my ‘market research’ is yet to find a county member who supports the idea.
Indeed a petition has been set-up for those who feel that the ECB are in danger of ruining something rather wonderful. Visit www.ipetitions.com/petition/countychampionship for details.
The ECB’s motive? Money, naturally. They intend to fill every Thursday and Friday for three months in the middle of summer with a 21-team Twenty20 competition.
While nothing is yet signed, sealed or settled, the tide is firmly in one direction. Truly, the lunatics have taken over the asylum.
* ?Kabir Ali, rested against Gloucestershire, comes back into the squad for Worcestershire’s final Twenty20 Cup match, against Glamorgan at New Road tonight.
The squad is otherwise unchanged, with Simon Jones will be rested.
WORCESTERSHIRE (from): G Hick, V Solanki, S Davies, M Ali, B Smith, S Moore, G Batty, G Andrew, K Ali, D Mitchell, C Whelan, S Magoffin.