Capel keeps the leaders in check

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The Independent Online

Northamptonshire 152 Warwickshire 159-6

Although the season has more than seven weeks to run, this match is likely to have a significant bearing on the outcome of the Championship. Which way it will go after an eventful first day, however, is impossible to call.

Warwickshire began with a 17- point lead over Northamptonshire, who have dropped to second place after two months. The title-holders have won their last four matches inside three days, and they set off as if intending to make short work of this one.

With Allan Donald and Tim Munton collecting four wickets apiece, they dismissed the erstwhile leaders in 55.3 overs and might have completed the first part of the job in rather less time but for David Capel, whose 79- ball 50 spared Allan Lamb greater embarrassment after he won the toss and decided to bat. Northamptonshire were six down for 69 after 28 overs.

When Roger Twose and Wasim Khan, his opening partner in the absence of Nick Knight and the injured Andy Moles, were putting on 67 for the first Warwickshire wicket, one suspected that Lamb's blushes were about to deepen.

But this notion was demolished inside half a dozen overs. Capel had the 23-year-old Khan dropped at the wicket, but then bowled him behind his legs in his next over, before a full-length ball to Dominic Ostler brought a successful appeal for leg before from the next delivery. Trevor Penney did well to dig out a yorker to prevent a hat- trick but won only brief respite, edging a catch to second slip.

Capel struck another blow before Warwickshire edged in front, finishing the day with 4 for 29 from 10 overs. Earlier, Anil Kumble, the wrist- spinner, had reduced them to 108 for 5 with two wickets in four deliveries, nipping one through to bowl the debutant Anurag Singh and dismissing Dougie Brown with an almost identical ball. By the close, Twose's unbeaten 98 was looking a valuable innings.

Coming so soon after the furore over the Edgbaston Test pitch, the likelihood of another shortened contest here will raise a few eyebrows, but the strip in use, green in the middle and shaved at the ends, does not seem unusually difficult.

Donald removed Alan Fordham and Richard Montgomerie with swinging yorkers, and there was a fair sprinkling of poor strokes among the other Northampton casualties. Twose, by contrast, showed what application could achieve.