Cricket: Ambrose's show of destructive power

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Northamptonshire 164 and 358

Hampshire 229 and 269

Northamptonshire win by 24 runs

WHEN it comes to launching shells in spells, few have such a devastating effect as the ones heading in from Curtly Ambrose's direction. Delivered from a great height and arriving at speed, the fear factor certainly plays a big part in his many successes and yesterday the West Indian blew Hampshire apart with 7 for 44 - his best return of the summer.

Northamptonshire duly collected their fourth win and this is becoming something of a habit. Last time out, they beat Derbyshire by 10 wickets with Ambrose recording his previous best of 7 for 48. To think at the beginning of the season his name was mud at Northampton following his late return from the series with England.

All has been forgiven and forgotten, this latest effort the deciding factor in a compelling contest in which both captains played a full part. Allan Lamb's century on Saturday had, after all, given Ambrose something to bowl at, while Mark Nicholas defied him with a show of guts to be rewarded with his first hundred in three years.

Nicholas punched the air in a show of emotion, but the pity of it from Hampshire's point of view was that, having made 107, Nicholas fell to Tony Penberthy. Having done all the hard work, you could understand why he was furious with himself.

At that stage, with 16 overs remaining, Hampshire were 63 short of their objective. It was precisely the figure that Nick Cook, who made 43, and John Hughes had added for Northamptonshire's last wicket, and when play began yesterday, Hampshire still needed another 282 from their remaining eight wickets.

The two that had already disappeared were courtesy of Ambrose, few likely to forget his final delivery on Saturday evening, a stunning yorker that sent Giles White's off stump cartwheeling. That first spell read 7-4-6-2; his second 7-5-8-2 when hostilities were rejoined with the crucial removal of Paul Terry - too slow in removing his bat - and Robin Smith - leg before offering no shot.

A break for rain freshened things up, not least Ambrose. Kevan James was his next victim in a 7-1-16-1 burst, while Adrian Aymes was blasted out when Ambrose returned again (5-0-13-1).

And as Hampshire crept closer, 25 needed off four overs with their last pair at the wicket and Norman Cowans having a fling with a straight six off Andy Roberts, you sensed the finale. Sure enough, Ambrose castled Cardigan Connor. The concluding spell was 2.3- 1-1-1. Spell-binding stuff.