Cricket: Curran rides his luck to plunder

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The Independent Online
Northants . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .151 and 481-7 dec

Yorkshire . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .148 and 147-2

BATTING was made to look so easy by Northamptonshire yesterday that they were left scratching their heads as to why their first innings had been so problematic. They resumed yesterday on 304 for four and started piling on the runs with such ease that Rob Bailey, the stand-in captain, was afforded the pleasure of a happy half day in the pavilion, twiddling his thumbs and wondering when to declare.

Mal Loye and Kevin Curran did most of the damage, but even after a mini collapse there was help from the lower order. Curtly Ambrose had already weighed in as top scorer in the first innings, and when called upon yesterday, he again swung the bat with considerable success.

So when Bailey eventually did declare, at 3.20 with his team on 481 for seven, the target of 485 looked fairly awesome. Yorkshire, however, started quickly. Martyn Moxon and Michael Vaughan knocked 50 in 13 overs, laying the foundations for a total that would far exceed the miserable 148 of their first innings.

It would be easy to blame a schizophrenic pitch, but neither side believe that the wickets changed character overnight. Its pace had slowed slightly but it has lost little of its bounce, certainly not enough to explain 18 wickets falling on day one, and only 11 on the following two.

It all points to poor batting on Thursday, but both sides' improvement since leaves this game delicately poised. With the one day's play remaining, Yorkshire have eight wickets to hang on to, and should they hit the 485 target, they will have recorded a higher fourth-innings winning total than any Yorkshire side before them.

It was Curran who yesterday contributed most to that target, though Loye, who resumed on 116, settled remarkably quickly and appeared to be Yorkshire's chief worry. He had only added another 16, however, when his first mistake of the day was snapped up at second slip by Richie Richardson off Chris Silverwood.

Curran had more luck. He was dropped by Richard Stemp off the bowling of Mark Robinson when on fifty and progressed to the nineties where he lingered for half an hour before reaching his first century for Northamptonshire by striding up to a short one from Stemp and lifting it over mid-on for four.

Curran was eventually caught behind off Peter Hartley, and Northamptonshire's vanguard then did a very respectable job. But then so did Yorkshire's openers; Moxon was caught on 32, but Vaughan persevered, saw off Ambrose, and at the end of the day, Richardson was playing second string to his 76 not out.

(Photograph omitted)

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