Cricket: Felton has the beating of Surrey: Bedrock innings underpins Northamptonshire's surprise win

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The Independent Online
Surrey . . . . . . . . . . . . . .181 and 322-8 dec

Northamptonshire . . . . . . . . .188 and 316-7

ACCORDING to the Cricketers' Who's Who, Nigel Felton is a man beset by feelings of neglect. Under the 'cricketers particularly admired' heading, the Northamptonshire opener's answer is: 'Me, as nobody else seems to'. Yesterday's match-winning effort, pricking as it did unbeaten Surrey's bubble, ought to work wonders.

Felton's stubborn approach yielded 87 in 65 overs, the bedrock of his side's first win in any competition this term. Almost as crucially, Mal Loye (66 off 64 balls) and Kevin Curran put on 93 in 17 overs for the fifth wicket. Loye relocated the touch that served England A so admirably in South Africa before Andy Roberts struck the winning run with two balls remaining.

Not that the target, 316 in a minimum of 89 overs, was unduly taxing on a pitch showing scant signs of deterioration. The loss of the first 45 minutes doubtless played its part in persuading Martin Bicknell to make a prompt declaration, but with only one of the visiting batsmen having previously passed 70 this season, such apparent largesse was eminently worthwhile.

As it was, the contest only began warming up after tea when Joey Benjamin unglued Felton and Allan Lamb, who had apparently settled matters with a third-wicket stand of 95 in 27 overs. Alan Fordham could have been excused the pout that greeted Jack Bond's decision to rule him caught down the leg-side following an opening partnership of 59, yet aside from Rob Bailey's failure to cope with Benjamin's cruel scuttler shortly after lunch, alarms had hitherto been virtually non-existent.

Mindful that Cameron Cuffy might have made all the difference with his extra zip and bounce, Surrey are unlikely to rest the St Vincentian again in a hurry. Benjamin and Bicknell shared 12 wickets here, but Mark Butcher and Adam Hollioake, critically, were too erratic to sustain the pressure.

Born in Guildford yet passed over by his native county, Felton's determination might also be linked to the imminent graduation of the Oxford University opener and captain, Richard Montgomerie. At 33, moreover, time is not in his corner. However, anyone who has spent three winters coaching under-privileged black youths in Cape Town is amply versed in struggles against the odds.

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