Cricket: Australians find profit in a rare loss: Forgotten Fordham drops a hint as Taylor and Waugh launch an impressive opening salvo in build-up to the Texaco war

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Northants 273-2; The Australians 183-2. Northants win on faster scoring rate

AS preparation for the Texaco Trophy, starting at Old Trafford on Wednesday, this contest had a deeper meaning. Alan Fordham, suffering from protracted neglect from England's selectors, made 101 from 146 balls for Northamptonshire and Mark Waugh, recognised suddenly as the Australians' one-day opener, scored 74. Fordham has somehow missed the boat - or rather the plane - on even an England A tour, a remarkable shortfall in a career producing a little matter of 5,317 first-class runs over the past three seasons, well in excess of 40 an innings.

Educated at Bedford Modern School, he is 28 now, but a man-of-the-match winning innings of 91 in the NatWest Trophy final against Leicestershire at Lord's last September confirmed his aptitude for the major occasion. He became only the second century-maker against the tourists, following Graeme Hick for Worcestershire. 'Alan who?', the Australian press corps enquired. 'Where on earth has he been?'

Keith Fletcher, the new England team manager, knows, and saw his innings but this match assisted the Australians far more. They suffered a first defeat in seven games on tour, following five straight wins and a draw, but it was significant. They were beaten on a technicality when in pole position with eight wickets intact. If Mark Taylor had managed 20 from an over off Paul Taylor after a rain stoppage before the heavy drizzle returned, then the Australians would have won.

Taylor, the vice-captain, had done more than enough to assure his slightly questionable place in the one-day series with an unbeaten 89 from 115 balls. This Australian team look likely to play in the first Texaco match and the simulation was geared to a close approximation of the competition's regulations, together with the starting time at 10.45am.

Mark Waugh rose to opener during the recent one-day series against New Zealand, scoring 308 runs in five innings, and his partnership of 144 with Taylor was the logical advance to victory until an appalling weather forecast fulfilled its promise. Waugh made 74 from 106 balls with purpose and considerable ease.

The pitch, used previously, was ideal for a limited-overs match. Runs aplenty, little help for the bowlers and a pleasing game for a heavily rugged and anoraked crowd, who savoured Northamptonshire's first win over the Australians since 1972.

Rob Bailey made an unbeaten 82, sharing a second-wicket partnership of 136 in 28 overs with Fordham. The golden moment for Allan Lamb was driving Merv Hughes past his flailing arm to the boundary. Lamb made an unbeaten 37 from 26 balls with the relish of someone determined to prove the detractors wrong.