A drama the equal of anything appearing in the thea-tre across the river saw Scotland sneak past Warwickshire in a breath-lessly exciting finish here yesterday.
For 90 per cent of this match, Warwickshire appeared to be heading for an embarrassing, and deserved, defeat. But, with the victory line in sight, the Scots' nerves threatened to overwhelm them and the hosts almost snatched an improbable victory.
With the tension mounting it took an outrageous slashed six over cover by Paul Hoffman - an old-fashioned batsman very much in the six or out mould - to settle matters and secure the Scots' first totesport League victory of the season.
Warwickshire scarcely deserved any other result. They batted fecklessly and dropped vital catches. To concede 20 wides in such a low total is unforgivable.
This match would have been a classic in any surroundings. But in the cosy surrounds of Swans Nest Lane, with a full-house crowd of 3,500 living every moment of the drama, the atmosphere was exceptional.
Furthermore, this was a rare exposure to cricket for many of the crowd. Surely, for some, it will have provided the birth of a lifetime of enjoying the game. The match provided a compelling case for bringing first-class cricket back to Stratford next year.
There will be those who use the low scores of the two matches here this year as ammunition against Warwickshire returning to the ground. Once again it was a mixture of fine bowling and poor batting that contributed to the low scores. The umpires had no hesitation in marking the pitch as 'good' after the match.
With the score 17 for five after ten overs, few would have guessed that it was Warwickshire who would be so outplayed by semi-professional opposition.
It was a fairly important toss to win and Scotland's seamers, Hoffman and Yasir Arafat in particular, took full use of a greenish pitch by pitching the ball up and allowing it to swing. But Warwickshire's batting was poor indeed and gave the impression of a side which thought victory would come with ease.
Nick Knight was bowled off the inside edge attempting an extravagant force, Neil Carter was bowled assaying an ambitious hoick and Jim Troughton was run out attempting a single that would have been deemed overly-ambitious in a game of 'tip and run.' Jonathan Trott played across the line and perhaps only Alex Loudon, who seemed to have some bat on the ball that dismissed him leg-before, can count himself unfortunate.
A brief rally by Trevor Penney and Michael Powell was ended when the latter picked out the fieldsman on the square leg boundary with his flick before Penney drove to cover.
Indeed, such was the dominance of the visitors' performance that it was entirely fitting that Warwickshire's best batsman was also a Scot, Dougie Brown. That it was the lowest score a first-class county has made against Scotland in this competition says much.
However, the lowest totals previously against Scotland were 131 and 128. Both times Worcestershire were the victims and, on each occasion, Worcestershire won.
It was easy to see how as Scotland threatened to throw away all their good work on the brink of victory. Although they lost Watts early, fencing at one that lifted and moved away, Jonathan Beukes, a South African overseas player, and Douglas Lockhart progressed smoothly in taking the total to 70 for one.
Heath Streak, however, at last appears to be back to his best and almost single-handedly rescued Warwick-shire from the edge of the abyss.
First he picked up and threw brilliantly to run out Beukes when he answered the call for an impossible single. Then, with Knight sensing blood, Streak was called back into the attack and responded with his quickest spell of the summer as the visitors lost eight for 38.
Gavin Hamilton was bamboozled by a brilliantly disguised slower ball, prodding a low catch back to the bowler, before Lockhart pulled the impressive Trott to long leg. Ryan Watson slashed outside the off stump and a succession of batsmen attempted - and failed - to hit their way to victory in an ever-increasing panic.
But it was all too late. There simply were not the runs to play with for Warwickshire and they did not deserve any other result. Twice Carter gave away five runs when his wide deliveries carried to the boundary. Naqaash Tahir, fielding at third man, made a horrible mess of Colin Smith's edged slash off Trott to sum up a miserable performance.