Cricket / County Championship: Taylor tinkers and topples Hampshire: Scyld Berry reports from Bournemouth

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The Independent Online
Hampshire 260 and 100; Northamptonshire 338-8 and 23-0. Northants win by 10 wickets

SWING bowling may be coming back into fashion in county cricket, too. Paul Taylor, a left-arm bowler of similar height but stockier build than Wasim Akram, enlivened Northamptonshire's attempt at their first Championship title by taking 7 for 23 against Hampshire yesterday, a career best which raised his county into third place.

By his own admission, though, Taylor was pursuing the elixir of left-handed swing well before Akram became the role model. He used to play for Derbyshire and left, he says, because he could not swing the ball. It was in Perth last winter, when Dennis Lillee persuaded him to turn more side on, that he began to get the hang of it; even so, according to his captain, Allan Lamb, it was only the odd ball which 'went' before lunchtime yesterday.

Until then, the match had proceeded on a sedate course, for there was little in the pitch to disturb a batsman bent on survival. Lamb was looking to Curtly Ambrose to finish off Hampshire, after they went into the lead with seven wickets in hand; or to his leg spinner, Andy Roberts, who had yet to bowl in the game. Instead, Taylor began one of those magic spells which left-handed pace bowlers can have when everything clicks. With the aid of a fresh breeze from the sea - and mid-off - he first had Robin Smith caught off the inside edge by David Ripley diving to his left. Smith is having as much trouble with quick left-handers as Geoff Boycott.

A mad sequence was then set in train, which saw Hampshire losing five wickets for no runs in only seven balls, batting like a side content with one trophy for a season's work. At the end of one Ambrose over Mark Nicholas was caught in the slips, not quite over a lifting ball. Taylor then took wickets with his first, second, fifth and six balls, finding Mervyn Kitchen more amenable to giving lbws than Akram had at Headingley.

Taylor's swing had the nightwatchman, Adrian Aymes, inside edging to short leg, and Jon Ayling leg before as the ball audibly hit pad before bat. Shaun Udal got an outside edge when Taylor slanted his stock ball across, and Ian Turner was lbw to another inswinger.

Ambrose strove so keenly to flush out the final pair that he delivered a 13-ball over during which he dismissed Kevin Shine twice with no balls. So Taylor was given the chance to finish off the innings, and to complete his 50 wickets for the season, leaving Northamptonshire to score 23 to win from 55 overs. Lamb reckons they have to win at least three of their last five games to take their first Championship, and there is that NatWest final, too, as either a stimulus or a distraction.

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