Warwickshire beat Yorkshire by 102 runs

An outstanding century from Ian Bell took Warwickshire to the brink of the top division of the totesport League.

Bell's innings of 137, the highest by a Warwickshire batsman in the 36-year history of this competition, was the central performance as the Bears went four points clear of Derbyshire with just the single game to play.

Bearing in mind Warwickshire's far superior net runrate, even a loss against Durham on Sunday would probably not deny them.

With Jonathan Trott (94 not out), Bell added 216 in 33 overs of mayhem. It was Warwickshire's highest stand in all one-day cricket, surpassing the 214 put on by Dominic Ostler and Neil Smith at Hove in 1996, and led the side to a total just one short of their record in this competition, set against Lancashire last year.

After 25 overs Warwickshire were progressing rather too sedately at 114 for two as Bell and Trott bedded in. But the next 20 overs realised 195 as Warwickshire's finest young batsmen took centre stage. One day, they may well perform similar feats for England.

Bell, cautious at first, was later murderous. His final 99 runs required just 46 deliveries as he took full toll of a very short boundary on the Pershore Road side, some insipid bowling and a fielding performance Laurel and Hardy would have considered slapstick.

Much has been made of Bell's struggles against Australia this summer, but the Yorkshire attack bears little relation. Their 19-year-old leg-spinner, Mark Lawson, is no Shane Warne, while the Aussie's McGrath is some distance more demanding than the Yorkshire version.

Bell displayed lighting fast hands, brilliantly quick feet and the eye of an eagle as he destroyed the Yorkshire attack.

Lawson was taken for 22 in four balls, three driven sixes and a four, but Bell (105 balls, seven sixes and 11 fours) punished all the bowlers. Relishing the relative freedom to express himself, hewas unafraid to hit the ball in the air, but also placed it brilliantly, particularly through point and extra cover. It was an innings of the highest class.

For this was not the innings of a man chancing his arm; this was calculated butchery. Many of the shots were straight from the text book, cleanly struck and perfectly executed. But Bell also demonstrated an ability to think on his feet, producing a couple of perfect reverse sweeps and other improvised flourishes.

When Michael Lumb, in exasperation, aimed one a yard down the legside, Bell had time to offer an impossible shot by an impossibly gifted young man. It was perhaps the best one-day innings by a Warwickshire player since Brad Hogg's unbeaten 94 against Northants last year.

Trott (121 balls, one six and eight fours) was largely overshadowed, but played admirably. He is finishing the season in commanding form and has now passed 50 in his last four totesport League innings.

Twice he has gone on to register a century and he easily leads the Division Two batting averages. He passed 500 runs in the competition this season and has developed into his side's most reliable middle-order batsman. He will win many, many games for this team.

Yorkshire, it has to be said, were desperately poor. Trott should have been run out on 32 when Bell called him for a sharp single to point, but Richard Pyrah's throw was hopelessly wide.

Bell, too, should have been caught on 115 when he lofted a catch to extra cover only to see two fielders leave it to each other and watch the ball fall safely to the ground. Other than that, the only time he was seriously inconvenienced was when a fearsome straight drive from Trott almost decapitated him on its way to the boundary.

Trott ran out of steam in the second half of his innings, understandably exhausted by his recent exertions. But he kept rotating the strike and ensured that he saw the job through. For this was not a perfect one-day pitch. It was true, but slow, and Warwickshire's total was far in excess of reasonable.

Bell finally departed, a ball fired into his legs beating his advance down the pitch. By then, however, the dye was cast. Jim Troughton sparkled in a delightfully effective cameo (13 balls, three sixes, two fours), creating an almost impregnable total and helping take 97 off the final ten overs.

Dougie Brown, bowling a full length and finding enough swing to beat cross-batted strokes made early inroads, though Matt Wood and Anthony McGrath briefly threatened to make a contest of it with a stand of 95 in 18 overs.

Wood was particularly impressive, pulling and cutting with panache, and benefiting from a reprieve from Tony Frost, low and to his right, off Adam Shantry when he had scored just 32.

That was tough luck for Shantry, who bowled impressively and deserved a wicket. If he can remain fit, Shantry could he can be a decent performer for Warwickshire.

Alex Loudon made the breakthrough. This was a masterful performance from England's newest recruit. He turned the ball both ways, confusing all the batsmen, and won deserved reward when his enticing flight brought catches to the long-off fence.

Neil Carter, extracting life out of a pitch that other bowlers found dead, also bowled very well. He produced excellent pace and hostility to soften up the Yorkshire middleorder while his pace defeated Wood's ugly heave.

Promotion isn't certain, but on this form Warwickshire will fancy their chances of victory on Sunday to make sure.