Warwickshire defeated Middlesex by three wickets
Alex Loudon provided a timely demonstration of his leadership qualities to shepherd Warwickshire to a vital win at Lord's.
Loudon ' s unbeaten 95 helped the Bears chase down a daunting target of 382 and sustains their slim hopes of retaining the Championship title. Perhaps even more importantly, it lifts them away from relegation danger. Had they lost this game they would have been in the bottom three.
"We definitely still have a chance of winning the Championship," captain Nick Knight said. "But at the moment we're just trying to win a few games and we'll try not to look too far ahead.
"We really needed this win. To come back from the position we were in - and after losing the last two Championship games - shows the fight in our side. It showed great character."
It was the strength of Loudon's character that was particularly evident. This was an impressive innings from the 24-year-old as Warwickshire made the fourth highest winning total in their history and the highest ever made against Middlesex. Loudon's maturity under pressure and willingness to take responsibility are qualities likely to impress Warwickshire's cricket committee as they search for a new captain.
Loudon's development continues apace. This was his second match-winning innings in little more than a week, following his marvellous effort in the totesport League game against Canterbury, and was also his highest Championship score, surpassing the 92 he made for Kent against Warwickshire last year.
Resuming on the final day requiring a further 161 to win, Middlesex seemed to have struck a hammer blow in the day's fourth over. Nick Knight received a brute of a ball from Australian fast bowler Stuart Clark which reared horribly, and flew to the slips.
Neil Carter thrashed two fours and a six in his brief innings, but when he hooked Clarke to long-leg and Tony Frost upper cut to third man, things looked grim.
Dougie Brown helped add 41 in ten overs with Loudon, but when he prodded a batpad catch to sill mid-off, it left Warwickshire in a most precarious position.
But Loudon received stubborn support from Luke Parker. The 21-year-old from Coventry, playing just his second Championship game, defied everything Middlesex's bowlers could throw at him, resisting for 69 deliveries in adding an unbroken 63 for the eighth wicket to clinch the win.
It was Loudon's mature contribution that was key, however. He used his feet wonderfully well against the spinners, driving cleanly, while withstanding a testing examination against some hostile fast bowling.
"We signed him as we saw a very special talent," said Knight, who became the second quickest man (after Rohan Kanhai) to score 10,000 first-class runs for Warwickshire during this match. "He has a special temperament and has been a great calming influence on the team. And don't forget Luke Parker. He's shown an outstanding temperament."
Loudon, who faced 148 deliveries and struck 12 boundaries, confessed that he had perhaps not scored the quantity of runs he would have liked. "My season is probably in the balance at present," he admitted. "I need to score another 500 runs and take at least 20 more wickets to consider it a success."
It is interesting to note that Loudon appears to be at his best with a target to chase. "We're a young batting side," he said, "and it can be easier to retain focus if we are aiming at a target. But now we've shown what we can do if we back ourselves and play positively."
Warwickshire are now fifth in the Division One table and, with a game in hand, have revived their outside chances of retaining their trophy. In truth, however, there will be more relief at the distance they have put between themselves and the relegation positions. They now face back-toback games against a pitiful Glamorgan side and top of the table Nottinghamshire. If they win both those; well a repeat of last year's success really could be on the cards.