Michael Powell credited his captain and coach after one of the finest innings of his career put Warwickshire well on top against Glamorgan.

Powell stroked an unbeaten 144 to help his side into a 217-run lead with two days to play. A crushing victory is on the cards.

"This is reward for Nick Knight and John Inverarity's faith in me," Powell said. "This time last year I was in the seconds. It took five centuries for them and a double-century in club cricket to get back to the first team, and hopefully now I've cemented my place in the side for a while.

"Last season really helped me, though. I felt I was moving in the right directions technically, and John and Nick have shown faith in me by selecting me for the first games of this season. I'm very grateful for their support.

"I took the winter off for the first time in years and feel much fresher. Since I've come back I've worked really hard with John and Neal Abberley and I feel my technique is better than it's ever been.

"Captaincy [Powell was captain between 2001-2003] definitely got in the way of my batting. Now everything is a lot more simple and I can concentrate on batting.

"There is tough competition for places at Warwickshire, but it's healthy competition. Jim Troughton and I are good friends, but we knew that there was likely to only be one spot in the side. And with Alex Loudon arriving it's even more competitive.

"It's a pleasure to be a part of such a strong

Shaking off the shackles of leadership has helped Michael Powell's game, he tells George Dobell batting unit. It's certainly the strongest I've played with.

"Ian Bell [who scored

96] again showed his class. He's so young, but I'm sure he'll cement his place in the England side in the next couple of years."

Meanwhile Heath Streak has attracted fierce criticism from former Zimbabwe team-mate Andy Flower for returning to Test cricket.

Flower, the former Zimbabwe captain who ended his international career by wearing a black armband in the World Cup to signal the demise of democracy in his homeland, hit out at Streak for abandoning his protest before any of his demands were met.

Streak led a band of white "rebels" who demanded the removal of Ozias Bvute and Max Ebrahim as selectors. No such action has been taken, however, and Streak's return to the fold just before the recent elections in Zimbabwe, was bound to provoke an angry response.

"He's led them [the rebels] into it and is now back playing. It is poor form," said Flower. "There have not been the wholesale changes they were demanding but they want to go back - I don't know what the reasons are. But you don't make a big stand then, when nothing changes, go back and say 'actually, I do want a contract'. Now there are half a dozen or so young white players out of a job."

Streak was reluctant to comment last night, telling The Post that he would make a statement at the end of the current Championship game.