Ambrose exploits green belt

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reports from Northampton

Derbyshire 98 & 7-0 Northamptonshire 210

A year ago Northamptonshire were giving Warwickshire a run for their money at the top of the table; now, they are at the bottom without a victory to their name while Derbyshire are lying third. After one day at Wantage Road on a distinctly awkward pitch, it is Northamptonshire who are much the more likely of the two to further their cause.

After winning the toss and batting on a surface which had been used for the NatWest Trophy game against Shropshire on Tuesday, and had a green tinge to it, Derbyshire were bowled out principally by Curtly Ambrose, who revels in uneven bounce, 10 minutes after lunch.

For some strange reason, pitches here look greener from the stand than they do under closer inspection. Eleven wickets fell to edged catches and lbw decisions, evidence of movement, but it was mostly in the air. Perhaps the main problem for the batsmen, however, was the bounce, not least because it played on their minds.

Northamptonshire found it rather better when their turn came, mainly because they did not have to face Ambrose. There was also an innings of splendid and vibrant determination from Rob Bailey, Northamptonshire's captain, who faced 113 balls and hit six fours, mostly from powerful drives, in an innings of 68.

Derbyshire started badly, losing Adrian Rollins in Ambrose's second over when he pushed forward and was caught at second slip. The score was 10 when Chris Adams was bowled, driving across Ambrose, and eight runs later Kim Barnett drove furiously at a wide one from Paul Taylor without much footwork and was caught behind. It was 33 when Dean Jones edged David Capel into his stumps, pushing defensively from the crease.

When Ambrose returned for a second spell, it was little more than a formality, and he finished with 5 for 15 in 11 overs and was well supported by Capel, who had 3 for 31 from eight overs.

Dominic Cork was not going to let Ambrose have it all his own way. In his second over, he had Andy Roberts leg before trying to play to mid- on. Richard Montgomerie departed lbw playing no stroke at Phillip DeFreitas, before Bailey and Mal Loye began to drive well through the covers in between surviving some concerted and deafening Derbyshire appeals.

They had put on 52 when Loye was lbw playing forward to Cork and, four runs later, Russell Warren gave Adams the first of three good catches at second slip, off Cork.

Capel then helped Bailey add 57 for the fifth wicket before he was also caught at second slip, trying to run Cork to third man. It was now that Cork was warned for intimidation after bowling three successive bouncers to Bailey who in the next over drove at DeFreitas and Adams held the best of his catches, diving to his right. Kevin Curran, playing some resounding drives and cuts, stayed to the end, by which time Northamptonshire led by 112. That should be enough to bring that elusive first victory.