Northamptonshire 321 and 365 Hampshire 560 and 118-8 Match drawn
A desperate helter-skelter chase for 127 from 22 overs ended yesterday when Hampshire, nine runs short, were frustrated by Northamptonshire, who had been overtaken by Warwickshire after a two-month reign at the top of the table. The top two meet at Edgbaston on Thursday.
Anil Kumble, the leg-spinner, prevented Hampshire from rising to fifth in the table by taking the new ball and returning 6 for 61. He had match figures of 13 for 192 and held two catches, including a crucial one on the sprint to dismiss Jason Laney, who made 42 from 55 balls in his maiden first-class match.
The game boiled down, in the heat, to 15 needed from the final over delivered by Kumble. Mark Nicholas, bowled when heaving to leg, was the sixth man out in seven overs, illustrating Hampshire's determination to go for victory from an earlier safe base.
Hampshire reached the last over at 112 for 6, and after Nicholas went Kumble took another wicket when Cardigan Connor skied a catch to Allan Lamb. Kumble was pounds 600 richer because a firm of accountants in Wellingborough are providing pounds 100 per wicket for any Northamptonshire bowler taking more than 50 this summer.
Kumble's six took him over that threshold with seven games remaining. They came long after he played something resembling a horrific Sunday League stroke, giving himself room and being bowled, in a critical session during which Northamptonshire needed to occupy the crease.
Alan Fordham had done so, making 120, with 19 fours from 310 balls, and casting aside a season's first-class average of just over 17. His career figure had been 40.63 and, during several golden seasons, he was probably the unluckiest player not to be nominated for an England A tour at least. Now he is back on track, having been dropped for the first time since establishing himself at the top of the order.
Northamptonshire also recovered their equilibrium late in the day. They held catches under pressure, notably in the deep, as Kumble exploited the available turn. Robin Smith's departure, after Fordham clutched a catch on the boundary to prevent a six, pointed the way towards an enthralling draw.
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