A four by Curtly Ambrose off the penultimate ball of the match kept Northamptonshire on top of the AXA Equity and Law League yesterday with their fourth win from four matches after a typically belligerent innings by David Capel.
Capel made 81 from 82 balls, putting a weak Warwickshire batting effort in perspective as the county champions' stuttering start to the seeason continued.
Despite the contributions of their illustrious overseas players, one of Warwickshire's more enduring traits has been the way in which their younger players have accepted responsibility when it has come their way. Yesterday it was Graeme Welch who rescued last season's Sunday runners- up, making his highest score in the competition at a crucial time.
Warwickshire had slipped from 83 for 3 to 85 for 6 when Welch arrived to join Shaun Pollock at the crease. They put on an invaluable 57 for the seventh wicket before the afternoon sun got the better of Pollock's red head. He was lucky to survive one close call for a run-out, but the very next ball Welch dabbed one down by his feet and Pollock could not resist a cheeky single. Russell Warren, however, was far too quick and Pollock was out by some yards.
Welch carried on, reaching his 50 with a towering six before perishing in the final over, caught at long-off, aiming to clear the ropes for a third time.
A target of 184 under normal circumstances would not have been too daunting for the hosts, but the manner of some of the Warwickshire dismissals suggested the pitch, used last week for the Benson & Hedges Cup quarter-final, was playing its part. Whether Northamptonshire needed a jolt or not they got it with the very first ball when Dermot Reeve produced a peach of a ball to have Alan Fordham caught behind.
Mal Loye and Rob Bailey then put their heads down but Paul Smith came on and removed Bailey with his first ball, and Kevin Curran gave Keith Piper his third catch in Smith's next over. At 40 for 3 Northamptonshire still had work to do.
Loye, though, was then joined by Capel for a stand of 63 in even time which began to take the game away from Warwickshire, despite Neil Smith becoming the third to take a wicket with his first ball, that of Loye.