Cricket: Hughes holds on

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The Independent Online
Northants 405-8 dec

Yorkshire 86-2 dec & 297-9 Match drawn

The public-address system welcomed the few spectators on the ground at 10.50 yesterday morning with "good morning, cricket-lovers". Ardent lovers they had to be to defy such cold and damp conditions, but their reward was a thrilling finish in which Northamptonshire, having scented a first victory of the season at one stage, eventually clung on for a draw.

Needing 66 off the last 10 overs with wickets in hand, the bottom county were favourites. Hampshire, having dropped three catches, then began holding some good ones in the outfield to close in on their third successive win. But last-wicket pair John Hughes and Scott Boswell denied them for 17 balls.

The captains had originally agreed on a target of 320 in 90 overs, reluctantly in the case of Northamptonshire's Rob Bailey, who was wary of the weather forecast. It was contrived by handing the ball to Robin Smith as the home team resumed at 40 for two in their first innings, his two overs of full tosses and long-hops being despatched into various back-gardens for 38 runs.

Rain soon came, in three different spells and, for a team not batting with confidence, 320 off 66 overs looked an altogether different kettle of cod. To their credit, they decided to go for it.

Kevin Curran, quickly beginning his second innings of the day, announced his intentions by striking 11 from the first three balls he received. The Zimbabwean looked more upset with umpire Nigel Plews than himself after getting the upraised finger to end his lively knock at 28.

Mal Loye, dropped by Smith on 26, drove just as fiercely, passing 50 with 11 fours shortly before tea to leave Hampshire grateful the original allocation of overs was no longer available. Even when Bailey (31) and Loye (86) departed in quick succession, Northants refused to give up.

David Sales and Tim Walton regained the momentum after the asking rate had touched seven-an-over. Sales went for 36, trying to hit Shaun Udal over the mid-wicket boundary for the second time, and Walton perished to another well-judged catch by Will Kendall.

Seven men on the boundary became seven round the bat as Jason Laney snapped up David Ripley and Jeremy Snape off Udal, and Northamptonshire finally settled for hanging on. Simon Renshaw's yorker to Paul Taylor tilted the balance towards the visitors for the first time, but Hughes and Boswell held on.