Cricket: Bears attack lacks bite.
It is 18 months and 18 matches since Warwickshire last suffered defeat in firstclass cricket.
Not since Michael Powell's final match at the helm, against Kent in September 2003, had Warwickshire lost and this was the first time Nick Knight has presided over a beaten Warwickshire side in first-class cricket Yet the MCC cruised to victory, inflicting a sevenwicket defeat on the county champions and showing up the lack of bite in their bowling attack.
It would be wrong to read too much into this loss. Knight is unlikely to offer such a generous target in more serious contests while a match incorporating three declarations is hardly representative of the norm.
Nor will many remember this result come October. With their pre-season plans disrupted, Warwickshire approached this fixture as a warm-up match. They were always more interested in ensuring they go into the Championship programme against Glamorgan at Edgbaston tomorrow in the best possible shape. Knight'sdeclaration deserves credit for focusing on the bigger picture rather than merely trying to maintain a meaningless statistic.
The soft option for Knight would have been to bat on after lunch and ensure the match was safe before allowing his bowlers a gentle runout. But, in a welcome indication of his positive intent and faith in his bowlers, the captain set the MCC a target of 296 in 62 overs.
Yet there are worrying signs. Warwickshire's attack, shorn as it was of Dewald Pretorius and Mark Wagh, looked threadbare as Alastair Cook (141 balls) and Andy Flower (114) plundered 181 in 32 overs and wicketkeeper Tony Frost joined the burgeoning injury list when he left the field clutching a thigh in the final session.
Frost's departure was purely precautionary, however, and he is sure to play tomorrow. So, too, is Wagh, who again rested his sore knee, though Pretorius is still rated only as a 50-50 chance with his own thing strain.
There are other positives to take from the game, too. Warwickshire's batting remains formidable, with Frost (117 balls, 11 fours and a six) and Jonathan Trott (123 balls, 11 fours) taking the opportunity to play themselves into form. Frost's cover drives were a delight while Trott looked asfine a player as any to have appeared in this match. His performance once again drew praise from watching England selectors David Graveney and Geoff Miller. Once qualified at the end of next season he will be a veryreal candidate for England. It is the bowling, however, that will most exercise the thoughts of captain and coach before tomorrow's opening Championship fixture.
Nick Warren, bowling an admirably full length, foundenough swing to suggest he could be quite a prospect, and Heath Streak was riled by some harsh treatment from Matt Prior into producing a much sharper spell.
The rest looked plain, however, and Loudon's figures(11 overs for 74 runs) suggest that, for all his abundant promise, he remains mighty raw to take on the position of first choice spinner.
It is his place that is most at jeopardy from Ashley Giles' return tomorrow.
Dougie Brown looks short of rhythm, too, and, at 35, the body is perhaps taking longer to adjust to the rigours of fast bowling than was previously the caseOnly a fool would write him off. The MCC side is, in effect, England's A team, but there was little in their attack to cause the Australians sleepless nights and the morning began with Frost and Trott milking the support bowlers in taking their stand to 161.
Frost would no doubthave reached a welldeserved century had he not been intent on increasing the tempo. Upon his departure, lofting to midon, Warwickshire declared.
Prior was soon tearing into the opening bowlers, thrashing Streak through the offside for three boundaries in an over. The bowler had his revengeinducing a flat-footed waft, and Michael Powell played around a straight one but Cook and Flower were untroubled on the excellent pitch. Knight was powerless to stem the flow of runs.
Cook was denied his second century of the match when his attempted dab to third man was well taken by stand-in keeperPowell. But Flower, all efficiency and class, upped the tempo and, in partnership with the highlyimpressive Mark Pettini, unveiled some glorious shots to take his side to victory with eight overs to spare.
Warwickshire's Championship squad to play Glamorgan: N Knight, M Wagh, Bell, J Trott, M Powell, A Loudon, D Brown, T Frost, A Giles, H Streak, N Warren, D Pretorius, N Carter
David Leatherdale chats with Graeme Hick as Worcestershire's squad for 2005 was unveiled to the media at New Road yesterday; Solanki draws on captains' experience, Page 24