Old heads see Bears to safety
Cricket, they say, is a young man's game, but it was Warwickshire's veterans that were the architects of an opening victory in their Twenty20 campaign.
An unbroken stand of 60 in 29 balls between 32-year-old Heath Streak and 31-year-old Michael Powell revived Warwickshire innings just as it appeared to be stalling.
But it was 36-year-old Dougie Brown who turned this game with a miserly spell of bowling that thwarted the Northants batsmen just as they seemed to have gained the upper hand.
Brown has recently found himself excluded from Warwickshire's one-day side for the first time in many years, yet he proved the value of his immense experience with two-wickets in a superbly controlled spell that proved there is some life in the old dog yet.
Bowling gun-barrel straight, an excellent full length and generating a little more pace than has been the case of late, Brown had the dangerous Bilial Shafayat caught at long-on, before taking the key wicket - Lance Klusener - with the first ball of his second spell.
Some perspective is necessary before Warwickshire are touted as prospective champions, however. Northants' oneday form is wretched. They lost eight of their nine C&G Trophy games and remain the only county side that Warwickshire have beaten in oneday cricket this season. Sterner tests await.
In a perfect world, Warwickshire would also re-jig their team selection. Due to their dire injury situation they went into this game with a team stacked with batting but including only four specialist bowlers. Ian Westwood bowled his off-spin very well indeed, but there will be days when Warwickshire do not get away with the part-timers making up the overs. Indeed, after Westwood bowled his first two overs for just 11, Streak gambled by giving him a third which was taken for 18.
Earlier Warwickshire had started their innings well enough. Navdeep Poonia (ten balls) thumped his first two deliveries to the boundary, while Jim Troughton (17 balls) and to a lesser extent Mark Wagh (27 balls) and Jonathan Trott (18) also shone briefly.
Yet at 125 for five in the 16th over, Warwickshire appeared to have lost their momentum against the spin of Jason Brown and the variations of Sourav Ganguly.
Streak (14 balls) and Powell (25 balls) ensured that the total was at least competitive, however. Powell (five fours and two sixes), sweeping the faster bowlers and reverse sweeping the spinners, made his highest score in the competition while Streak (four fours and a six) employed the slog sweep brilliantly and drove straight with great power.
In reply Usman Afzaal was run out after being sent back by Ganguly, while the rest of the top order struggled to prosper against some well-controlled bowling from Neil Carter and Streak in particular. Only Jimmy Anyon struggled, bowling length balls of a similar pace and taking some punishment.
An increasingly assured stand of 36 in 31 balls between Klusener and Rikki Wessels spelt danger for the Bears. Wessels' huge six off Troughton held up play for some time after it emerged that someone had stolen the box of 12 replacement balls and officials were obliged to root through the players' bags until one could be found.
Brown returned to the attack to bowl Klusener off the inside edge in an over that cost just two, however, while Westwood took two wickets in three balls to all but settle matters.
Though Ben Phillips ruined Streak's figures by thrashing 20 off his final over, Warwick-shire could feel well satisfied with this performance. Their senior bowler all performed admirably, while their fielding held-up well despite the frenetic atmosphere.
They are one of barely a handful of sides to reach the knock-out stages in each of the three years this competition has been staged and their battered confidence will be partially restored after this win. Glamorgan, who play at Edgbaston this evening, are next in their sights.
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