EDGBASTON: Gloucestershire (131) lost to Warwickshire (134-2) by eight wickets
It somehow seems typical that just as Warwickshire finally find their party outfit, they lose their invitation.
Anther thumping victory, this time over Gloucestershire, confirmed their ascendancy in this form of the game. With five Twenty20 Cup victories in succession, they remain top of the Midlands/West/Wales group and are the only unbeaten team in the land. One more win will guarantee them a quarter-final place.
Yet despite this superb form, the possibility of a lucrative Champions League date appears to be receding all the time. The Indian cricket authorities, the Board of Control for Cricket in India, have underlined their refusal to allow teams fielding ‘rebel’ Indian Cricket League players to take part in the competition and are reported to have asked the Pakistan Cricket Board to replace the English counties if necessary.
“The BCCI is very clear that ICL players will not be featured in the tournament,” BCCI official IS Bindra said. “Teams from England can be considered, but only those who don’t have players associated with the ICL.
“If the England and Wales Cricket Board can’t guarantee that it will clear only teams without ICL players for the tournament, then we will look at the replacement.”
It looks highly unlikely that the ECB will agree to anything of the sort. Not only is it deemed unpalatable to most counties, it is also thought to be illegal. Actions for restraint of trade action would almost certainly be the result.
“The English Cricket Board’s officials told us that laws in Britain do not permit them to restrict participation of players,” Lalit Modi, the BCCI vice-president, said. “If that be the case, England’s teams will not be able to play in the Champions League staged in India. It’ll be very sad but we have our own rule.”
As things stand only three English teams - Essex, Somerset and Middlesex - would be deemed suitable by the BCCI. Warwickshire, who have two ICL players in Boyd Rankin and captain Darren Maddy in their squad, would certainly not be welcome.
Maddy is unlikely to be fit to play in the quarter-finals, anyway, but the club last night confirmed that were he to recover in time he would be picked regardless of Indian opposition.
Any attempt to exclude English clubs could prove disastrous for the Champions League. It is being suggested that such action could provoke Australia into boycotting the competition, opening the possibility of rival leagues, while it will do nothing for relations between the BCCI and the ECB.
Ironically, it would almost certainly drive an army of English players into the hands of ICL agents. At present, the Champions League provides a carrot for resisting ICL money. If English players are to be excluded from the tournament, anyway, there will be little to stop them agreeing to ‘rebel’ offers.
Warwickshire’s Neil Carter is known to be a target of ICL clubs and is at the stage of his career where such sums will be hard to resist.
It would be a shame of Warwickshire were to be excluded. They are, on form, the best Twenty20 side in the country.
They were on top yesterday from the moment Chris Martin struck twice in his first over to leave Gloucestershire reeling on three for two and they completed an eight-wicket victory with 18 balls remaining.
There is no great secret to their method. They simply have a varied, disciplined attack, backed by a very good fielding unit. The batting has, to date, hardly been stretched but, so long as Carter provides the early impetus, their gameplan looks sound. It will be challenged if he falls early, however.
It might also be challenged if they played against composed opposition. But Gloucestershire, like previous teams they have faced, panicked in the face of tight bowling and lost early wickets.
By the time they slipped to 65 for six in the 13th over, the game was as good as over.
It’s hard to pick out individuals in such a fine team performance but Tim Groenewald and Ian Salisbury certainly impressed.
Groenewald struck with his second ball, bowling Hamish Marshall off the inside edge of an expansive drive, before finding a perfect yorker for Steve Kirby.
Salisbury, who was revelling in the atmosphere, delivered another masterful spell, pushing the ball on to the batsmen and allowing them nothing to hit.
Marcus North, missing a sweep, and Steve Adshead, driving to long-off, perished as the search for runs became desperate.
Only Chris Taylor flourished. He hit four sixes, three of them over extra cover, and four fours in a 43-ball innings that briefly threatened.
Martin was plundered for 16 in three balls as Taylor cut loose but, without support ,there was little he could do.
Carter ensured the customarily brisk response. After surviving a dropped chance first ball, he struck three sixes, including a lovely straight drive off the loan signing A J Harris (playing in place of the injured Jon Lewis), as well as producing an outrageous ‘switch-hit’ pull off the same bowler; a remarkable shot to a fast bowler and one that realised four runs over gully.
Jonathan Trott (48 balls, six fours) again looked composed. This, the second half-century of this campaign, took his career total of Twenty20 runs to 999, and featured the merciless clips off the legs and cover drives that have typified his batting. Only Nick Knight can equal his five Twenty20 half-centuries for the club.
It was Tony Frost (36 balls, a four and three sixes), however, who dominated a stand of 78 in ten overs. A flick across the line for six was reminiscent of Viv Richards while a pull for six off Ian Fisher was as graceful as David Gower.
High praise, indeed, but one wonders how many runs Frost might have scored had he concentrated on his batting throughout his career?
The only cloud on the horizon for Warwickshire was a finger injury to Ian Westwood. The captain will learn today whether he has a break.
He has to be a doubt for the remaining games.
The shameful scoreboards apart (they didn’t work for the first three overs of the game), this was another fine performance off the pitch from Warwickshire, too.
A series of pre-game attractions based around a ‘family day’ theme helped attract another big crowd (in the region of 12,000) and the club coped promptly with hazards caused by the strong winds.
More importantly, they allowed Dougie Brown the opportunity to say goodbye to the supporters. In speeches touching on issues as diverse as house-sharing, cricket and homo-erotism, Ashley Giles paid tribute to his team-mate, while Brown replied with words guaranteed to raise a cheer: ‘the drinks are on me.’
The packed room, the standing ovation and the many shaken hands all told the same story: the Scot’s place in the heart of this club is assured forever.
Warwickshire’s Michael Powell and Glamorgan’s David Hemp will each lead a side in a Twenty20 match at Knowle & Dorridge Cricket Club on Wednesday. The event, starting at 5pm, will feature Herschelle Gibbs and Allan Donald among a host of other well-known players, and is designed to raise money for the benefit seasons of each captain and for the charity Cure Leukaemia. Entry is only £2 per person or £5 for a family.