County Championship (at Edgbaston): Durham 163 (K H D Barker 5-33, C J C Wright 4-41) & 139 (K H D Barker 5-37) v Warwickshire 267 (I R Bell 120, G Onions 4-74) & 36-1
Warwickshire (21pts) beat Durham (3pts) by 9 wkts
Warwickshire completed a stunning first quarter of the championship season by hammering Durham by nine wickets – their first four-day win over the northerners since 2006.
Durham have handed out some fearful beatings to the Bears in recent years but this time the boot could not have been more emphatically on the other foot.
Even in a rain-affected game, Warwickshire completed victory with a day to spare after Keith Barker and Jeetan Patel capitalised with the ball upon a winning position built by Ian Bell with the bat.
The victory sends Warwickshire into a week’s break from championship action clear at the top of Division One.
Four games have brought them three wins against putative title-challengers Somerset, Lancashire and Durham while only a washout deprived them of victory in their other game at Hove.
Feet will remain firmly on the ground within the Warwickshire camp, however. The sporting world contains no more slavish devotees to the “take each game as it comes” policy than Ashley Giles and Jim Troughton.
But, make no mistake, the Bears’ cricket in the first month of the season has been of a quality associated with champions.
And they still have Chris Woakes to return, probably for the next championship game, against Lancashire starting on May 16, and then Boyd Rankin to join the fray, all being well, in mid-June.
When Warwickshire resumed on Friday on 195 for seven, their supporters hoped for the usual tail-wagging – and were not disappointed.
After Bell fell for 120 (229 balls), last pair Patel and Chris Wright added 47. Patel, adopting the uninhibited approach favoured by Imran Tahir two years ago, clubbed 30 from 23 balls to lift the lead over 100.
Wright and Barker, consistently excellent this season, then imposed immediate pressure though, this time, all the wickets went to the latter. He hit the stumps of both openers and tormented Ben Stokes before ousting him via a catch at gully.
Next came a bonus. Paul Collingwood set off for a leg-bye and slipped in mid-pitch. That was good fortune for Warwickshire, though Tim Ambrose, having scampered round to collect on the leg side, still had to hit the stumps direct – and did.
Darren Maddy’s seventh ball trapped Ian Blackwell.
Dale Benkenstein and Phil Mustard have caused the Bears plenty of grief down the years and added 53 but both fell to Patel.
Mustard lifted the spinner to mid-off and then, after Barker did for Scott Borthwick, snared Benkenstein, caught close in by Bell.
Whereas, earlier in the day, Warwickshire’s tail wagged, Durham’s waved the white flag as Calum Thorp and Graham Onions fell to horrible shots.
Barker was left with match figures of 30.2-10-70-10 and they do not flatter him. In both innings (five for 33 and five for 37) his work was top drawer.