Cricket: Lamb in charge

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The Independent Online
Northants 307-7 v Warwickshire

A CARNIVAL air permeated Allan Lamb's batting at Wantage Road but, then, it usually does and this was the Northampton Festival, no matter how bizarre that sounds. The word festival will probably equate more regularly with county headquarters staging two matches back-to-back now the out-grounds are disappearing.

Lamb commanded the day, making 188 not out, with 18 fours and a six from 275 balls, the highest score by a Northamptonshire player against Warwickshire. Statistically, it was brilliant, watching it was even better.

Dropped after the second Test at Lord's, Lamb proved he is still not a back number. His 76th first- class hundred, his 46th for the county, his 20th at this ground and first against Warwickshire leaves him short of just two, against Somerset and Durham, to complete the set.

Warwickshire persevered, completing the day's allocation of overs half-an-hour late, as is their wont. The Championship's so- called fixture reforms for next season are one thing but its open- ended games still trail on into the evening, with spectators already on a well-worn tramp home.

Lamb was happy just to bat as long as possible. Northamptonshire were 4 for 2 after seven balls, Alan Fordham being caught at third slip and Nigel Felton run out by Trevor Penney's stunning direct hit. Even in the Essex slipstream, third- placed Northamptonshire and Warwickshire, one rung lower, have much more than the sharp tang of ancient rivalry to savour.

With Fred Titmus, an England observer on site, Lamb produced an innings offering a pre- Headingley reminder to Graeme Hick, whose last in a protracted series of Test chances must be nigh.

Under Lamb's guidance, Northamptonshire gathered full batting points. Their other strokeplay was mostly anonymous, the bowling being assisted by the same pitch being used for a second successive Championship match. By the sixth day, it should produce a positive result.

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