Cricket: Brown weathers storm

Durham 317 and 216 Northamptonshire 190 and 298 Durham win by 45 runs
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IT HAS been a long year for Durham, but they finally recorded their first Championship victory in 12 months, beating the rain and Northamptonshire with just three overs to spare. Fortunately, the win was just enough to lift them off the bottom of the table.

Durham, whose last win in the competition was on 6 June 1998, when they beat Middlesex at Lord's, have not been having much luck with the weather of late. Twice already this season they have been robbed of victory, over Worcestershire and Somerset, by rain. Yesterday a hat-trick looked on the cards after play was delayed until 2.20pm with the loss of 42 precious overs.

That left 54 overs for Northampton, with seven wickets remaining, to knock off the 203 they needed to win and the way David Sales and Russell Warren patiently set about things the odds against a Durham win lengthened. But they have a potent bowling attack and this year have missed out just once on a maximum points haul.

As ever, the key to Northampton's demise was left-arm paceman Simon Brown, who missed all of last season's Championship campaign. He picked up two wickets in three balls just before tea, ending Warren's contribution to a 133-run fourth wicket stand, then getting the verdict when Tony Penberthy's legs got in the way of another sharp delivery.

Rain briefly interrupted proceedings a little later on before David Ripley lost his stumps to give Brown his second five-wicket bag of the season. Just prior to the stoppage Sales had fallen to Stephen Harmison when he looked set for a century. Suddenly there was a glimmer of hope.

Only Graeme Swann and Paul Taylor provided any resistance, and Durham thought they had removed the former when he had scored 32 and was snapped up off Brown in the gully by Michael Gough, who hung onto the ball just millimetres off the turf.

It looked a close call but judging by the looks on Durham faces not so close that the batsman might have considered walking. However, after some deliberation the umpires gave him the benefit of the doubt and Swann made an attractive 62 before John Wood took a fine return catch.

Taylor and Michael Davies resisted for half an hour before Harmison struck again, dismissing the former followed by last man Devon Malcolm and Durham celebrated, as much for getting one over on the weather as for beating Northampton.