Pro40 Division Two (Grace Road) Warwickshire 276-7 (NM Carter 78, DL Maddy 56) defeated Leicestershire (195) by 81 runs
If anything underlines the muddled thinking that pervaded at Warwickshire last season, it is the fact that Neil Carter was viewed as surplus to requirements.
The absurdity of that decision was clear to see at Grace Road last night. After thrashing his way to the highest score of the match, Carter claimed two important wickets and played the key role in securing his side’s opening Pro40 victory of the campaign. He remains a highly-dangerous all-round cricketer and the presence of two England selectors (Geoff Miller and Ashley Giles) at the match could be telling; they will not find many more destructive openers for the Stanford Twenty20 games.
Taking full advantage of a fine pitch and a weak attack, Carter’s innings of 78 occupied only 55 deliveries and included 10 fours and five sixes. So cleanly did he strike the ball that all but eight of his runs came in boundaries and Warwickshire looked poised for a total in excess of 300 at the halfway stage of their innings.
This wasn’t a faultless performance from Warwickshire, however. For the second match in a row the middle-order collapsed before the lack of teeth in the opening bowlers was also exposed by the placid pitch.
They had some fortune, too. By losing the toss, Leicestershire were obliged to bat under desperately inadequate floodlights while Warwickshire also benefited from the hosts’ awful fielding performance.
In key areas, however, they outperformed Leicestershire. They showed much greater composure with the bat, their spinners offered more control and, most of all, they fielded far better than their sloppy hosts. The catch taken to seal victory, a one-handed, diving effort by Jonathan Trott on the mid-wicket boundary, was little short of miraculous.
Indeed, had Leicestershire taken all their opportunities, Warwickshire would surely have fallen far below the daunting total of 276. Paul Nixon, standing up to the stumps, was unable to cling on to an outside edge offered by Trott when the batsman had 14. Leicestershire’s captain also failed to gather a throw that would have resulted in the run-out of Carter when the batsman had scored only 38.
Instead Carter went on to pulverise the bowling as very few people can. This was not the Carter of two or three years ago, however, who scored a large portion of his runs off thick edges over third man and fine leg. This innings contained a series of booming drives through extra-cover, several powerful pulls and a couple of impudent sweeps off the seamers that carried far over the boundary for six.
He won good support from Trott. The pair posted 91 for the first wicket in 11.3 overs with Trott looking murderous off his legs, before Carter played on and Trott was caught behind.
Jim Troughton and Darren Maddy maintained the momentum in a stand of 96 in 13 overs for the third wicket. Maddy (48 balls, seven fours and a six), returning to his former home for the first time in a competitive match, struck the ball particularly sweetly in reaching his half-century in only 42 deliveries while Troughton (46 balls, three fours) also looked in good touch, playing the ball into the gaps and rotating the strike sensibly.
When Troughton did fall, however, it precipitated a sharp decline. Claude Henderson, the left-arm spinner, bowled a tight spell (four for 12 in four overs) as five wickets fell for the addition of 37 runs in 11 overs. Maddy, Troughton and Tony Frost all missed sweeps while Tim Groenewald mis-timed horribly and presented a soft caught-and-bowled chance.
Luke Parker, for the second match in succession, looked horribly out of his depth. His 12 runs occupied 30 deliveries and he was caught between the need to progress and a tangible fear of failure. This innings will have done him little good, however, and Giles’ desire to recruit an experienced middle-order batsman before next season was understandable.
Some late hitting from Ant Botha revived the innings, however. Botha (19 balls, three fours and a six) took 17 off the last over, ensuring a total that was about 35 better than par.
For a time Leicestershire looked as if they might mount a reasonable challenge. Neither Lee Daggett nor Naqaash Tahir offered the control required on such an unforgiving surface and it took a fine catch at deep square leg to make the breakthrough.
Carter, firing in yorkers, accounted for Boyce and Nixon before the spinners went to work on the middle-order. Botha finished with career-best figures as he maintained excellent control and preyed on the batsmen’s increasing panic.