Worcestershire defeated Warwickshire by 58 runs
What an hospitable place Edgbaston is! Had Worcestershire prepared the pitch for yesterday's Cheltenham & Gloucester Trophy match themselves, it is doubtful whether they could have made it more helpful to their attack.
A crumbling strip, heaven sent for spinners, allowed Worcestershire's slow bowlers to squeeze the life out of the home batting and maintain their excellent recent sequence in local derbies.
There are, no doubt, good reasons why the pitches at Edgbaston are so conducive to spin, be it the dry winter, fireworks display in November or chilly spring. But it is making life very difficult for the home team. Yesterday, when their three first-choice spinners were absent, the pitch just seemed to spite them.
Worcestershire played very well. Including Twenty20 Cup matches, they have won the last five limited-overs encounters between the sides and looked the better team with bat and ball. They must go into the Pro-40 and Twenty20 as dark horses for success. Warwickshire, below Scotland in the C&G table, are still searching for that elusive oneday blueprint.
In all, Worcestershire used four slow bowlers yesterday. Gareth Batty and Ray Price were the pick and produced combined figures of five for 38 from 15.2 overs to dismiss the hosts for 209. Again there were some soft dismissals but on this pitch Warwickshire had precious little chance of chasing a target of 268.
Batty, overlooked by England this week, looks to be the in-form spinner in English cricket. Aged only 28, his best days could be ahead of him.
"The pitch suited us far more than Warwickshire," he said. "I wouldn't mind if they were all like that; it would make my job a lot easier!
"It wasn't easy for batsmen. They couldn't drive because of the turn, or sweep because of the bounce, so for us, with two front-line spinners, it was perfect. I don't feel the door [to England] is shut on me.
"Personally things are getting better all the time. I'm enjoying the responsibility of bowling teams out on the last day and the result in Somerset [where Batty took six second-innings wickets], where we played the perfect game, hopefully sent out a message."
Interestingly Batty also had news on his own 'doosra'. "I got Chris Taylor out with it at Bristol and it's something that's going well," he said.
"I've had chats with Muralitharan and Alex Loudon about it, and Alex reckoned it took him about four years to develop. I've been working on mine for two or three."
Central to Worcestershire's effort was a stand of 111 in 18 overs between Vikram Solanki (60 off 55 balls, nine fours and a six) and Stephen Moore (80 off 99 balls, 11 fours and a six). For the second time in successive weeks, Moore surpassed his competition best score.
Both men batted beautiful-ly, Moore proving particularly strong square of the wicket on both sides, and captain Solanki using his feet to spinners and seamers alike to hit over the top. While Solanki's England days may have gone, Moore must be in the thoughts of the national selectors.
From 162 for one in the 29th over, Worcestershire's total may have been slightly disappointing. They lost nine for 105 in 21 overs, with Jimmy Anyon and Neil Carter bowling somewhat better than their figures suggest.
Carter, especially, can count himself unlucky. He could have had several wickets and though Tony Frost can't really be blamed for losing a 'dolly' in the bright sunshine, it must have been hard to take for the bowler.
There was a golden lining for Warwickshire. For the second time over the weekend, one of their young bowlers impressed; albeit on a tailor-made pitch.
Nick James, making his first-team debut, bowled an immaculate spell of left-arm spin, allowing no width and finding just enough turn to keep the batsmen honest. He didn't concede a single boundary in his ten overs and thoroughly deserved the wicket of Ben Smith, whom he bowled with one that turned and beat the batsman's drive.
James impressed with the bat, too. In a desperate situation, he timed the ball pleasingly, striking three sweet fours and a slog-sweep six in his run-a-ball 30.
There wasn't too much else to celebrate for home supporters. Shorn of Ian Bell and Loudon, who were withdrawn by the England management, Warwickshire's line-up appeared strong on allrounders but thin on top-order batting. Loudon, who was somewhat surprisingly awarded his county cap before the start of play, might have been particularly useful on this pitch.
Despite some late resistance by the tail, Warwickshire never really threatened to overhaul a testing total. Nick Knight was dismissed, shuffling in the crease, by his first delivery and though Jim Troughton (58 off 73 balls, nine fours and a six) and Carter (32 off 25 balls, seven fours) then added 77 in little more than ten overs, the game was always likely to change once the spinners came on.
Carter mis-read a slower ball, Jonathan Trott was run out by a direct hit by Smith at mid on as he called for a quick single and Ian Westwood looked all at sea against the spinning ball.
Troughton timed the ball deliciously. Six times he eased the ball through the covers, while he also skipped down the pitch and drilled Roger Sillence for a straight six. Yet, once again, he played a part in his own downfall when he picked out the man on the square leg fence and swept directly to him. ..SUPL: