Cricket: Bailey plays safe

Northants 479 & 232-6 dec Lancashire 415-9 dec & 114-0 Match drawn
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The Independent Online
It Was entirely in character with a match that lost its precarious sense of direction on the morning of the first day that Northamptonshire should have systematically battered it to death on the afternoon of the last.

Faced with a choice between trying to make a match of it with an enterprising declaration or drifting on aimlessly until it was too late, their captain, Rob Bailey, unsurprisingly opted for the latter.

The victory target of 297 left by the declaration when it finally came at 3 o'clock was never remotely tempting.

Lancashire could be accused of contributing to the lack of purpose by batting on in the morning in order to give Ian Austin the chance of his first century for five years. That was all to no avail, as Austin was soon leg before to Jeremy Snape still five runs short.

Lancashire did call it a day then and had some early encouragement when Peter Martin had Richard Montgomerie, whose obduracy in the first innings set the tone for much that was to follow, caught at square leg.

Mal Loye played with some panache for a fifty at a rate of one run per ball, but it was revealing that it took Bailey exactly twice as many deliveries for his half-century, despite the occasional lusty blow, including a six off Gary Yates to bring it up.

Perhaps any real chance of Northants setting an early target disappeared when Kevin Curran was out cheaply, although Tim Walton followed his big hitting in the first innings by thumping a quick fifty.

He completed it with three sixes in one over from Gary Keedy, whose total of runs conceded in the match went up to an unflattering 234.

Northants at last came in at that point, leaving Lancashire to preside over the dying stages of a match that had never truly been alive.

Bailey could have revived it, but took the view that on a pitch which was doing less than either captain had expected at the start, there was no reason to leave the door open for his opponents. Lancashire responded by merely playing out time.