County Championship (at Edgbaston): Worcestershire 246 (P J Hughes 135 no, V S Solanki 57 J S Patel 4-72) & 145 (J S Patel 4-42) v Warwickshire 132 (R Clarke 61, C J Russell 4-43) & 263-3 (I J Westwood 83, V Chopra 58)
Warwickshire (19pts) beat Worcestershire (4pts) by 7 wkts
WARWICKSHIRE took a giant stride towards the Championship title after polishing off Worcestershire by seven wickets on the third day at Edgbaston.
While challengers Somerset and Nottinghamshire ground out a rain-ruined draw at Taunton, the Bears collected 19 points from a victory at the end of an extraordinary match.
After 30 wickets fell on the first two days, two of the three innings failing to reach 150, Friday batting suddenly appeared as straightforward as it should have been all along.
On a pitch on which crease-occupation was always perfectly possible with care, Warwickshire made short work of their target of 260.
Ian Westwood provided the backbone by following up his century against Middlesex at Uxbridge last week with 83 (172 balls, 11 fours).
The left-hander added 100 for the first wicket with Varun Chopra (58, 101 balls) then 77 for the second with Will Porterfield.
Porterfield has his critics and has certainly endured a tough time this season but has now played important knocks in three fourth-innings run-chases.
Against Lancashire at Liverpool, he steered a wobbly team effort safely to a small target and against Surrey at The Oval his excellent 66 was a cornerstone of a potentially awkward chase.
Friday's 109-minute 37 provided crucial ballast to the chase.
After Warwickshire resumed on 79 without loss, needing another 181 from a minimum of 192 overs, Westwood and Chopra patiently and sensibly extended their partnership to 100 – their third century opening stand in six home games this season – before Chopra fell lbw to Chris Russell.
The visitors needed that breakthrough to set a clatter in motion but Westwood and Porterfield added 77 in 24 overs.
Russell’s highly impressive debut continued with a lifter which forced Westwood to send up a return catch and when Porterfield edged Moeen Ali to second slip, 67 were needed with seven wickets left and Worcestershire had just a glimmer of an opening.
But there are fewer more experienced players around than Jim Troughton and Darren Maddy and captains present and past took their time to ease their side towards a priceless victory with an unbroken stand of 70 in 18 overs.
Four draws (albeit rain-affected ones) and a defeat had passed since Warwickshire’s previous championship win at The Oval on May 26. During that time they played some good cricket and some not-so-good. Momentum, though not, it has to be said, confidence, had drained away.
Now, at the most crucial stage of the season, it’s back and the Bears head into the last four games of the season with a 21-point lead at the top of Division One.
The title, which could be the seventh in the county's history, is theirs to lose.
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