Cricket: Curran in control

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The Independent Online
Gloucestershire. . . . . . . . . . . . . .296 and 152-4

Northamptonshire . . . . . . . . . . . . .349

THIS was the kind of wicket which could only inspire spectators to speculate on the prospects for the new football season. It was painfully slow, without turn, and batting was a test of little more than patience.

Neither side has found runs easy to come by this season, so the chance to cash in must have been tempting. Northamptonshire had the added bonus of the absence of Courtney Walsh, in the West Indies to select his touring side for India.

The pitch may have been prepared to take his non- appearance into account, not to mention the presence of Curtly Ambrose. Certainly, it made for stifling cricket.

Shots had to be manoeuvred in front of the wicket, with timing a minefield and fluency a risk. Northamptonshire's 349 took 147 overs and their lead was largely thanks to Kevin Curran.

Resuming a stubborn partnership with Tony Penberthy, he profited only from the meagre scraps offered by the tidy pace of Mark Alleyn and Ricky Williams, soon preferred to the opening spin attack. Martyn Ball had attempted to induce mistakes with clever loop, but pace proved the more tempting after the Northamptonshire pair had added 114.

Williams tempted Penberthy to force a straight delivery, Alleyn quickly counted for David Ripley who stretched to drive a wide ball, both being caught.

Curran had generally been more judicious, but even the prospect of a century against his old employers did not maintain his resolve, as he crashed a long hop to gully.

The game remained balanced, though, Northants bowling with less control, but more devil, and their skipper, Allan Lamb, maintaining an attacking field. While this brought more flowing strikes, the Gloucestershire batsmen did not appear so comfortable, and they surrendered early dominance.

Ambrose wasbriefly menacing, but it was Curran who took four wickets. Wright, Tim Hancock and Robert Dawson were all startled by low bounce, a factor which could well play a decisive role tomorrow.

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