Cricket: Bailey leads Northants by example

Michael Austin reports from Northampton Northamptonshire 293-7 Kent 108-4
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The Independent Online
Three wickets in seven devastating balls from Tony Penberthy and Kevin Curran in the gloaming made Northamptonshire favourites to reach the Benson and Hedges Cup semi-finals when this enthralling, although rain-affected match, resumes today.

Kent need another 186 from 29.1 overs to win, a tall order after Rob Bailey, the Northamptonshire captain, made 105 not out from 129 balls to become a candidate for a remarkable fourth consecutive Gold Award.

The phrase "pinch-hitter" is in vogue and so are the zealots doing it, although David Capel, with 63 from 45 balls, including 11 fours, prefers the label of aggressive opener to that of slogging technician. Matthew Fleming's 40 from 23 balls was scored from a similar fiery bat, but while Bailey sustained Capel's launch, Kent are still looking to Trevor Ward in a similar capacity.

Ward reached a circumspect unbeaten 31 while those around him perished, notably Graham Cowdrey from Penberthy's booming inswinger and Carl Hooper, caught athletically at mid-off by John Emburey, 43, the chief coach turning theory into practice.

Nigel Llong was bowled by a perfect delivery from Curran and Kent's dazzling 56 without loss from five overs seemed like ancient history. Paul Taylor, punished for 35 from three overs, mostly by Fleming, disappeared from the attack, just as Martin McCague had faded into the outfield, and did not complete his allocation after Capel's onslaught.

Bailey roared to a century with a six over square leg off Fleming midway through the final over of an innings also featuring Mal Loye, Penberthy and Richard Montgomerie. Penberthy added 40 in five overs with Bailey for the seventh wicket, after Russell Warren and Montgomerie had been run out at the bowler's end through the sharpness of Hooper and McCague. Any cosy notions that Northamptonshire cherished about impregnability were dented by Fleming, whose 16-ball half-century against Yorkshire earlier this week was the fastest in Sunday League history. He was bowled middle and leg by a full-length in-ducker from Curtly Ambrose.

If Kent lose today, as seems probable, Northamptonshire, with nine straight wins in limited overs this summer, will have designs on winning this trophy after a 16-year gap.