Warwickshire (181-7) defeated Kent (177-9) by three wickets
Career best one-day figures from Dewald Pretorius and an innings of character and skill from Alex Loudon saw Warwickshire move equal top on points at the head of the totesport League Division Two table.
High quality seam bowling from Pretorius helped restrict Kent to a manageable total, but it was Loudon, on his return to the county he left in controversial circumstances, that ensured victory.
Warwickshire's top order batting had folded with alarming ease when Trevor Penney (43 balls, one four) and man of the match Loudon came together. The pair turned the tide in a partnership of 77 in 16 overs, defying bowler friendly conditions and the momentum of the game to secure Warwickshire's sixth successive victory in this competition.
Loudon (96 balls, five fours), again booed by some in the crowd, was reprieved twice, but played with great maturity and no little skill. Geraint Jones, a keeper with much to prove, spurned a stumping chance when the batsman had 37, while Martin Saggers put down a straightforward chance just after the batsman reached his half-century.
Those moments apart, however, Loudon was magnificent, producing some superb sweeps and drives, suggesting that the club have at last found a middle-order one-day batsman to inherit Penney's role.
Penney, placing the ball delicately and running with a speed that would delight a man 15 years his junior, has done more than enough to suggest there is another year or two left in his tank. If he doesn't win another one-day contract then finances at Warwickshire must be tight.
But it was Pretorius who laid the foundations for victory. He had never previously taken a five-wicket haul in one-day cricket or, indeed, any game for Warwickshire. But he rose to the challenge of leading the attack in the absence of Heath Streak and bowled magnificently.
In 18-months with the club, Pretorius has shown glimpses of his ability. But as a highly remunerated Test bowler, more than glimpses are expected and some members have lost patience with the Kolpak- registered South African.
That's not entirely fair, however. His cheerful disposition masks a fierce desire and he has sometimes appeared to lack the devil required to succeed. Put simply, he seems too nice a man to be a fast bowler.
He has also suffered from a series of niggling injuries and undergone adjustments to his action that took time to bed-in.
Impressive though Pretorius was, it will take more than one good game to silence the doubters. The hope must be that he will take heart from this performance and reproduce such hauls on a consistent basis. He has the ability and the desire and perhaps this performance will give him that extra belief. The fortunes of Warwickshire's season may well be shaped by his reaction.
Here he bowled an immaculate length and found just enough movement to trouble the best. Although the conditions offered assistance, he was the only Warwickshire bowler to harness them and the fact that his first four wickets were bowled or lbw bears testament to his excellent line. He was, remember, Warwickshire's best bowler in the Twenty20 bowl out.
Andrew Hall was beaten by a straight one, Rob Key was bowled by a beauty that nipped back between bat and pad and, just two balls later, Matthew Walker saw his off stump removed by one that swung into him and seamed away. With Darren Stevens following, padding up to another that nipped back, and Geraint Jones edging a faster delivery that bounced sharply, Pretorius had five for 13 from six overs. It was top quality seam bowling.
From 29 for five, however, Warwickshire will have been disappointed to allow Kent back into the game. Warwickshire's attack had a thin look and the support bowlers were punished by Justin Kemp (93 balls), just as Durham has rebuilt in similar circumstances a couple of weeks ago.
The South African, who enjoyed a brief sojourn with Worcestershire, took a particular shine to Jonathan Trott, taking 17 from one over with some muscular batting. The tail lent sensible support and Warwickshire were left chasing at least 50 more than they should have been.
In reply Warwickshire lost early wickets, slipping to 62 for six after 25 overs. Martin Saggers utilised the conditions beautifully, and runs were desperately hard to come by.
Nick Knight was bowled off the inside edge, reaching for one outside the off stump, Ian Bell was beaten by one that nipped back sharply and Trott laboured for 40 deliveries before both he and Tony Frost edged good balls to slip.
But Loudon kept his head and though The Bears have played more games than some of their rivals, they are very well placed to secure promotion.
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