At Gloucester: Warwickshire beat Gloucestershire by an innings and two runs
There are still those that suggest that Warwickshire's Championship success last season was somehow fortuitous.
The cynics point to the luck captain Nick Knight had with the toss; the relatively low number of victories they achieved; and the golden summer their batsmen enjoyed. Well, Warwickshire are now back on top of the Championship table after a crushing victory over Gloucestershire.
They have won four games out of seven. Yet they have lost all seven tosses and their batsmen are only now rediscovering their form. The truth is, they're had no luck at all this season; they're a good side.
A superb spell of bowling from Heath Streak helped the champions wrap-up the maximum points win in just three days. With nearly half the season gone, they are well
poised to retain their trophy.
Streak is likely to feature in only two more Championship game before departing on international duty at the end of July. He goes safe in the knowledge that he has played a significant role in at least two victories.
"I've enjoyed everything about my time here," he said. "I hope it's not the end of my relationship with Warwickshire, but of course I want to play Test cricket for Zimbabwe and that has to come first.
"I wanted to be able to leave knowing that I'd contributed to a few victories, and I hope I've done that now."
This wasn't a result pitch. It was a track that required graft and it such much about the opposing sides that one so outplayed the other. Warwickshire were better, yes, but they also wanted victory more. Gloucestershire were very poor indeed.
Equally as important as Streak's bowling was the return to form of Jonathan Trott. Trott compiled his first Championship century for almost a year in the first innings here, ending a run which had seen him fail to progress beyond 41 so far this season.
"I had lost my confidence," he admitted. "After a couple of low scores I started to over analyse my game and went out to bat thinking too much. I was making things far too complicated."
Among the spectators was David Graveney. England's chairman of selectors is known to be a fan of Trott, and this innings will only have increased his admiration. Trott may not qualify for England until September 2006, but he has a good chance of winning a place in this winter's Academy squad.
Trott (239 balls, 20 fours and a six) added 151 for the third wicket with Ian Bell. The pair came together with their side wobbling somewhat, but soon took control against a weak attack.
Perhaps the best way to describe the quality of Trott's batting is to recognise that he matched Bell - now acknowledged as the best young player in the country - stroke for stroke. There must be a good chance that they will one day perform similar deeds together for England.
Gloucestershire obliged with some insipid bowling. Twice Upul Chandana's full tosses were deposited on to the surrounding marquee, while Trott showed his renewed confidence by moving to 99 with a sweet straight six off the spin of Ian Fisher.
Alex Loudon continues to impress. This was not pitch where timing was easy, yet he laced the ball through the covers with the grace that is becoming customary and provided the impetus to ensure that maximum bonus points were achieved.
There were runs, too, for Jim Troughton. With Ian Westwood and Mark Wagh waiting in the wings, Troughton was desperately in need of this innings, his first Championship half-century of the season, and the competition for batting places in the team remains impressively intense.
Despite his background as an opener, Michael Powell now appears happier in the middle order. A case could certainly be made for either Westwood or Wagh returning to open the innings against Kent.
It took until the penultimate ball of an extended day for Warwickshire to clinch victory. With the hosts beginning their second innings 219 run in arrears, Streak delivered a probing line and length, moved the ball both ways and dismantled Gloucestershire' top order so readily that he boasted figures of five for nine at one stage.
Craig Spearman, always the key wicket, edged one he had to play that left him, Matt Windows' extravagant drive was defeated by one that nipped back and James Pearson turned the ball obligingly into the hands of square leg. Mark Hardinges also fell to Streak's excellent offcutter and Steve Adshead chopped the swinging ball on to his stumps.
Dougie Brown again bowled well in support. Having nipped one back to wrong-foot Philip Weston, he induced an inside edge to end Chris Taylor's brief rally. It was the Scot's 500th first-class wicket; a marvellous achievement for a player who, sooner or later, is going to prove mighty hard to replace.
A spirited eighth-wicket stand of 84 only delayed the inevitable. Some judicious aggression from Ian Fisher was ended when he couldn't move the bat out of the way of Neil Carter's bouncer, and though the coach, 37-year-old Mark Alleyne, shamed his charges with a defiant half-century, Streak was not to be denied. Umpire Roy Palmer - a 'not outer' to his core - adjudged Alleyne leg before to the second last ball of the day to sentence the hosts to an innings and two- run defeat.
There is a flat feel to this Gloucestershire team. They've now suffered four losses in succession - all within three days - and have the look of a side resigned to relegation.
Meanwhile Ashley Giles is likely to play in the Second XI Trophy game at Neath tomorrow as he continues his comeback after injury. If he comes through that game he will play for Warwickshire in the totesport League game against Leicestershire before meeting up with the England squad.