Wonderful batting, hapless bowling and a breathless finish: a crowd of just under 5,000 experienced a perfect example of the attractions of Twenty20 cricket as Warwickshire and Gloucestershire tied their game in Bristol on Friday.
When Ian Westwood edged the final delivery of the match – his first – to the third man boundary it was the visitors who celebrated. This game had appeared lost only minutes earlier and to emerge from ‘fortress Bristol’ with a point against last year’s finalists was a fine effort.
But it was two men who have experienced contrasting fortunes this season who did most to snatch the point. Tony Frost and Tim Groenewald added 66 in 31 balls to rescue a game that had appeared to be beyond them after a lame performance from the top order.
For Frost this year just continues to get better. He took the man of the match award for this, his maiden Twenty20 half-century, striking three crisp sixes and a four in his 33-ball innings.
But Groenewald’s influence was just as impressive. He has failed to do himself justice up to now this season, but the Twenty20 Cup should provide him an opportunity to kick-start his season and his 19 balls innings last night, containing three fours and two sixes, provided a perfect demonstration of his muscular batting.
The turning point of this game came when Anthony Ireland was called in to the attack to bowl the 17th over. At that point Warwickshire required 60 off the final 24-balls and the game looked beyond Warwickshire.
But Ireland threw them a lifeline. His first delivery, a length ball on off stump, was driven over extra-cover for six by Frost – the shot of the match – before the bowler was then ordered out of the attack by umpire Richard Illingworth for delivering two successive beamers. Warwickshire took byes off them both and milked a further nine off the rest of the over bowled by the replacement, Marcus North, to leave 37 required from three.
When Frost perished to the first ball of the final over, driving to deep extra-cover, it appeared that all his work may be in vain. 14 were still required, but Groenewald thrashed a six over long-on and, after a ‘dot ball’, a two and a single, it left Westwood on strike for the final delivery.
Perhaps Jon Lewis’ decision to bring fine-leg and third-man into the circle was an error. For Westwood was never likely to middle his first ball and the thick edge he managed flew over the short third man and down to the boundary.
Still, Warwickshire may reflect that their top-order batting let them down once again. Navdeep Poonia was dismissed first ball, playing across the line, before Neil Carter was bowled by the impressive Lewis. After 12 overs they had scored just 61, meaning 98 were required from the final eight.
It was the batting of Jim Troughton (40 balls, two fours) and Jonathan Trott (13 balls) that left Warwickshire in trouble. The 50 was not brought up until the 11th over as the pair appeared paralysed by the situation, either unwilling or unable to play the strokes required, and instead allowing their side to slip further and further behind the rate.
Indeed, their departure was like removing a blockage. Trott lofted lamely to long-on before Troughton’s torturous innings ended when he edged an ugly swipe, allowing Frost and Groenewald to come together in the match-winning partnership.
Earlier Warwickshire’s spinners dragged the visitors back into the game after Gloucestershire enjoyed a bright start. Ant Botha, Ian Salisbury and Troughton conceded only 50 in their nine overs to limit the hosts to a modest total of 158 on a somewhat sluggish pitch.
Hamish Marshall (31 balls, five fours and a six) drove Neil Carter’s first delivery over long-off for six to bring up the 50 at the start of the sixth over, but Botha, taking the pace off the ball and forcing the batsmen to come after him, claimed three for 22 as Warwickshire applied the brake.
Chris Martin experienced a disappointing debut. His lack of rhythm was exposed by his compatriots at the top of the Gloucestershire innings and the admirable Chris Woakes was preferred to him for the final over of the innings.
Warwickshire may still be looking for their first victory when they take on Somerset in Taunton today, but they should have taken some heart from this performance and can approach the game with hopes of qualifying for the quarter-finals still very much alive. Gloucestershire, after two losses, are already up against it.