Cricket: Bailey's driving display

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The Independent Online
Essex 178; Northants 179-2 Northants win by 8 wickets

Sunday League fever is a recurring theme on Sundays at the County Ground, but this time there was no happy ending for Essex. Northamptonshire continued their remarkable run in limited-overs games this season, and have now won all 13.

A powerful display of driving by Rob Bailey, helped by Kevin Curran, steered them home after Curtly Ambrose and Paul Taylor had made good use of conditions that allowed movement off the seam and in the air.

There is a general feeling in English cricket that there is at least one too many limited-overs competitions, and the one that most would be prepared to sacrifice would be the Sunday League. County secretaries generally would not support this view, and this game was a good example of why this should be.

For the second week running, more than 5,000 people packed into the County Ground, with those adults who were not members paying pounds 8 for the privilege. Simple arithmetic shows that this is a sound financial exercise and one which those who run the counties would obviously be reluctant to give up. The weather helped, but it all provided grand entertainment.

The newly reinstated group matches in the Benson and Hed- ges Cup, played in bitterly cold weather in April and early May when only the most partisan venture outdoors, should surely be more vulnerable.

Although Essex supporters would not have come along especially to see Northamptonshire stretch their winning run in this competition to six matches, they would have enjoyed Bailey's and Curran's strokeplay; Ambrose bowling; a last glimpse of John Emburey, who brought off an unlikely left- handed catch at midwicket; a fine knock by Nasser Hussain, and some agile fielding all round.

Although the ball moved around at the start, Essex did not bat well. Both openers went in the first nine overs for 15 before Ronnie Irani played three or four seering strokes on both sides of the wicket.

Irani and Hussain then got into a muddle over a quick single, and Irani left the wicket looking daggers over his shoulder at his partner. Graham Gooch, who bats at No 5 on Sunday and looks as if he cannot quite understand why he is there at all, played a few good strokes.

Northants lost Richard Montgomerie to the second ball of their innings, caught by Gooch at slip. After that, Bailey and Curran, slowly at first, built up the innings. Northants won with more than seven overs to spare.