Final day: Kent defeated Warwickshire by nine wickets
The season may be only seven weeks old yet it seems a lifetime since its start. All the optimism of April already appears naive and foolish.
Warwickshire aren't going to win the Championship this year. They're not going to win the Cheltenham & Gloucester Trophy either. Cricket's unpredictability is one of its glorious qualities but it would take a steep rise of form for the team to be considered viable challengers for either of the other trophies.
That's not the end of the world. There is not another team in the land that carries with it the same level of expectation as Warwickshire and those hopes are, perhaps, unreasonable.
It would be comforting to believe that this is a season of transition. Comforting but not particularly honest. The truth is that there is not a huge amount of talent coming through the ranks at Warwickshire. A major intervention is necessary or things will only worsen.
It would be wrong to criticise the new management team. Heath Streak and Mark Greatbatch inherited this team, its strengths and weaknesses, and will take time to stamp their own imprint on the club. Most of all they are paying the price for a failure to produce - and retain - enough quality bowlers through the youth or scouting system.
John Inverarity's reputation at the club is secure; he won the Championship after all. But he showed scant little interest in the youth system - he never attended an Academy session - and left a dubious legacy. Given time, the present regime will prove more valuable for the club. Bear with them.
The limitations of this bowling attack were laid bare on Saturday. The target of 196 was never likely to be enough but it should not have been so easy for Kent.
Not for the first time this season, a pitch that had appeared treacherous when Warwickshire batted suddenly seemed blameless when they bowled. Sounds familiar, doesn't it?
Rob Key cut and pulled his way to his highest score of the season. He would have had a century had his partner not been unable to resist a juicy half-volley and punch it for a boundary to finish the match.
Apart from the relentlessly unlucky Neil Carter, who bowled one fine spell, this was a poor display with the ball. Carter extracted real pace from a pitch that had hitherto appeared deathly slow but otherwise there was far too much short-pitched bowling and, Dougie Brown apart, a lack of belief.
Alex Loudon struggled as captain and spinner. His positive qualities are plentiful but there is no way of masking the grim slump of form he is in with the ball in particular.
Such matches provide the acid test of spinners. So often pitches offer them nothing but on the rare occasions where the surface offers encouragement they are required to be match-winners. On this strip, on which Kent's spinners snared 11 wickets and turned the ball square, Loudon found little spin and took only one wicket. He was comprehensively out-bowled by James Tredwell and Min Patel.
He looks bereft of confidence. It was his much-publicised wrong 'un that brought him to the national selectors' attention but he hardly bowls it now. He is struggling even to find a right 'un.
Suffice it to say that while Jim Troughton and Daniel Vettori may be left-arm spinners, the similarity stops there. So the bowlers were at fault. But the batsmen were equally culpable. In both innings they failed to graft their way to a competitive score and sold their wickets too cheaply.
Batting is supposed to be the strength of this team but first-innings scores of 316, 248, 217, 401 and 237 in the last five Championship are inadequate. No-one doubts the ability of a batting line-up that should be the foundation of the team for the next decade but they do need to start delivering when it matters.
The Championship-winning side of 2004 was built upon a foundation of strong opening partnerships. This year the opening stands in Championship matches have been: 19, 60, 41, 0, 14, 31, 28, 21, four and seven. Nick Knight's form is the most pressing worry. He has averaged only 16 in seven innings since the Yorkshire match and, for the first time in more than a decade, a case could be made for dropping him. Such temptations should be resisted.
"We didn't bat well enough," Greatbatch said. "We were 80 for five in both innings. That says it all. They batted poorly once, we did it twice.
"We had the best of the conditions and wasted them. It was a good toss to win but we didn't take advantage. We should have ground out 80 runs a session for five sessions.
"Sure, losing Daniel Vettori and Heath Streak was a blow, but there's no reason why we can't win games without them.
"Had we set them 250-plus then the run-rate requirement would have been a factor. We didn't set them enough but had we used the new ball better and not missed a couple of chances we could have made a game of it."
Greatbatch betrayed just a hint of his own disappointment in the team's performance when he added: "I'm going to reiterate to them that we didn't score enough runs. And then I'm going to tell them who is going to be playing for the first team and who is going to be playing for the seconds."
There are mitigating circumstances. The loss of both overseas players was a body blow and there can be little doubt that Vettori would have proved lethal on a truculent pitch. Ian Bell was the victim of unusually good deliveries in both innings while Knight suffered poor fortune with an umpire's decision in the second.
A couple of dropped catches may have made all the difference. Martin van Jaarsveld was reprieved on nought and three, first by Knight at leg gully off Loudon, then by Trott, low at slip off Carter.
Some positives emerged from the match, too. Tony Frost, with 100 runs without dismissal, has returned to top form with both gloves and bat while Mark Wagh reminded supporters of his sublime skills. Lee Daggett bowled well in the first innings but was inexplicably overlooked second time around.
A few players from the seconds are also pushing hard for places. Tim Ambrose and Michael Powell scored centuries last week while Navdeep Poonia and Moeen Ali also impressed. The present situation is also crying out for Naqaash Tahir to shake-off his lethargy and bowl as we all know he can. At present it seems everyone is prepared to do everything required for him to succeed but the man himself.
Had Frost and Brown been able to extend their overnight partnership on the last day, victory was still possible. Brown dragged his back foot out of the crease as he attempted a sweep, however, and was stumped while the team's policy of not protecting the tailenders was punished as Jimmy Anyon and Daggett were swept aside by high-class spin bowling.
Although David Fulton was bowled when he missed an attempted sweep, Key (169 balls, eight fours) made batting appear simple. He hardly played a false stroke and looked depressingly solid.
Warwickshire are equal fourth, though they have played a match more than four of their rivals. It's not a great position but neither is it disastrous.
Whether or not Warwickshire decide to sign another overseas player - and that decision might well be made at a meeting among Colin Povey, Greatbatch and Streak today - they should be able to avoid relegation. They may well be grateful that it is only two sides that go down this year, however.