Warwickshire's grim season sunk to new depths as a weekend of double defeat left them on the brink of relegation in the Pro-40 League.
Losses to Lancashire and Northamptonshire mean that they have won just one of their last 16 completed matches. They now need to win their final game against top-of-the-table Worcestershire and hope that a string of results elsewhere go their way just to clinch a place in the play-off match. It will take a miracle to save them.
To make matters worse, Surrey completed a County Championship victory over Hampshire yesterday to move ahead of Warwickshire in that table. Double relegation is now a distinct danger.
Though Saturday's tenacious performance against Lancashire hinted at improvement, yesterday's comprehensive defeat at Northampton banished such thoughts. Warwickshire were utterly out-played by a side who had only won two List A games in the entire season before yesterday.
There were certainly no signs of that 'demonstrable progress' we've been hearing about. Indeed, six months into the season, Warwickshire are yet to offer a settled line-up, while the batting order appears to be picked out of a hat.
While all the best limited-overs teams talk of role definition and continuity of selection, Warwickshire continue to chop and change with chaotic intensity. They have now used 22 men in List A cricket this season, yet are no nearer finding their first-choice side. Even the players admit that they have no idea what the batting order will be from game to game.
But it perhaps says most about the hapless nature of Mark Greatbatch's regime that the one man to emerge from the wreckage of this weekend with his reputation enhanced was the one man that the coach has already decided he wants to release.
Neil Carter bowled with pace, intelligence and hostility in both games. More importantly, however, he struck 92 from just 64 balls on Saturday to give his side the rapid start they have lacked so often this season. His bouncer struck Dominic Cork and Nicky Boje crashing blows on the helmet and he often appeared the best player on the pitch.
Carter's 'release' raises serious questions about Warwickshire's current policy-makers. For a start, one wonders why Carter is required to open the batting and bowling in such key games if the coach has decided that he is so dispensable.
Furthermore, if Greatbatch is about to depart - and his position is mightily precarious now - he should not be making decisions about the future direction of the club. Indeed, every week that Greatbatch remains at the club inflicts further damage and leaves his successor with more to mend.
There was little to celebrate from the weekend's cricket. But perhaps the saddest moment of all was the sight of Dougie Brown leaving the ground for the final time as a player at 10.30am on Saturday. Deemed surplus to requirements at Edgbaston, Brown will shortly depart on Scotland Twenty20 World Cup duty and will not be re-engaged next season. There is little room for sentiment in professional sport, but after all he has done for the club, Brown surely deserved more of a send-off.
There was also a certain irony in the timing of his departure. For just as Brown left Edgbaston, the club unveiled the signing of Ant Botha, a 30-year-old left-arm spinner, on a deal that will keep him at the club until the end of 2009.
Now Botha may prove to be a splendid acquisition. He claimed a wicket with his first ball for the club yesterday and would have had one with his second, had Nick James not put down David Sales - on nought - to the next delivery.
But just as Brown represents all that is good about Warwickshire - the selfless, passionate and innovative character for which the club was known, anyway - so the signing of another South African-born player highlights the distance the club have come from their roots and their supporters.
How can a fellow who represented Derbyshire on Saturday possibly understand what it means to represent Warwickshire on Sunday? How can the likes of Alfonso Thomas, Nayan Doshi, Vaughn van Jaarsveld and Botha - all of whom were drafted into the squad as panic measures with only weeks of the season to go - know what it means to wear the Bear and Ragged Staff?
It should be remembered that it was on this very Wantage Road ground that Warwickshire were awarded the championship trophy just three years ago. Yet with Jim Troughton dropped yesterday - he has failed to pass 37 in 12 List A matches this season - the club moved yet further from the side that Nick Knight and John Inverarity were building. The side which, we were told, was three years from fulfilling its potential. Indeed, not only were only three of yesterday's side involved in that championship-winning side, only three of them were born in Britain.
The sadness is that everything good at Edgbaston - the sense of fun and selflessness - has been replaced with fear and mediocrity. The club is in danger of losing not just its first division status but its soul. These are dark days.
The club's hierarchy can expect a tough ride at Thursday's members' forum. The air is thick with talk about extraordinary general meetings and petitions demanding resignations. The club's officers ignore it at their peril.
To make matters worse, Darren Maddy and Kumar Sangakkara have departed on international duty. Maddy twisted his ankle in the field on Saturday, had to sit out yesterday's match and will undergo a scan today to ensure he is fit for England duty. Tim Ambrose will be captain for the remainder of the season.