EDGBASTON (final day of four): Surrey (21pts) beat Warwickshire (5pts) by nine wickets
Warwickshire supporters have experienced many emotions this summer. Anger, disappointment and pain may be the predominant ones but there was delight and joy at the start of the season, too.
The over-riding sense at Edgbaston yesterday, however, as Warwickshire hurtled towards a defeat that was as ignominious as it was predictable, was simply sadness. A season that started so brightly, that promised so much, is ending in dismal fashion. That sadness is all that unites supporters, players, coaches and office staff.
It was telling that so few people bothered to attend the finale of this match. Despite the fact that it was the last weekend of first-class cricket at the ground this year, Edgbaston was eerily empty. In the end, supporters will vote with their wallets. This team offers scant entertainment.
This defeat means that double relegation is now, for the first time, likely. Though there is still a mathematical chance that Surrey could go down, Kent and Warwickshire are the only teams still realistically involved in relegation trouble. Kent are nine points behind the Bears with a match in hand but have two tough ones to come, against Durham and Hampshire. Warwickshire have only one, starting tomorrow against title-chasing Lancashire at Old Trafford. To put Warwickshire's plight in perspective, they could win in Manchester and still face the drop.
The director of cricket, Mark Greatbatch, will take most of the flak.
That's probably fair, for it was his poor management that drove away Mark Wagh and Moeen Ali. It was his inability to accept the opinions of others that caused the division with senior players such as Dougie Brown. It was his idea to bring in the short-term contracts that create only fear and self-interest and his idea to select 26 players for first-team cricket this season alone. Greatbatch has worked hard but appears utterly unable to lift this team.
But his departure alone - inevitable as it is - will fix little. Most of the cricket committee who were so obviously absent over the weekend, the coaches and scouts who have failed for years and, yes, some of these players: they, too, need to be accountable.
There was something symbolic about the necessity for a member of the groundstaff to come on to the pitch during play on Saturday to remove some fox excrement from the corner of the square. He should not have brought a scoop but a skip, for this club needs a clear-out and a new start.
Warwickshire are barely competing at present. They have won only once in 17 completed matches and have lost to sides - Northamptonshire, Surrey and Yorkshire - that have been made to look very ordinary by other teams. It is hard to be optimistic ahead of the Lancashire match.
To make matters worse, neither Ian Bell nor Jim Troughton will be available for that match. England's team management have requested that Bell rest prior to the tour of Sri Lanka while Troughton, who aggravated his back injury in the field on Saturday, has probably played his last match of the summer. Nick James and Luke Parker are called into the squad.
Warwickshire had chances to build a dominant position in this contest. As good a bowling performance as they have produced for several months limited Surrey to a first-innings lead of 88. Had Alfonso Thomas taken 'that' chance offered by Mark Ramprakash on Friday, it could have been much better.
Yet Surrey also missed chances. Michael Powell (on one) and Ian Westwood (on three) were badly missed in the slips when they started their second innings while Surrey's bowling was distinctly poor.
Warwickshire's batsmen again failed to take advantage, however. Though Westwood produced an uncharacteristically aggressive innings (90 balls, 13 fours and two sixes), he and many of his colleagues perished to ill-advised shots; the lack of confidence in the squad being quite tangible. Powell cut to point, Jonathan Trott and Alex Loudon felt for balls on off stump while Tim Ambrose turned the off-spin of Murtaza Hussain to leg slip. Troughton, severally hampered by his bad back, swung merrily for a while but when Westwood sliced to point and Troughton pulled to deep square leg, the target was only 177.
The ease with which Surrey sped to victory was dispiriting. Scott Newman and Jonathan Batty posted the visitors' highest opening stand of the season as the win was achieved with 55 overs and nine wickets in hand.
Thomas was plundered for three boundaries in four deliveries - each more ferocious than the one before it - by the excellent Newman while Jimmy Anyon, regularly pulled in front of square, looks unrecognisable from the confident fast bowler that he could be.
Chris Woakes did take his maiden championship wicket - Newman nibbling at a good delivery on off stump - but he looks unsurprisingly raw. Ant Botha offered some threat, and certainly improves Warwickshire spin attack, but simply had too few runs to play with.