Cricket: Lamb springs into season

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Northamptonshire 164 and 358

Hampshire 229 and 12-2

YOU could fairly regard this as the silence of Lamb's first Championship century of the season. While Allan Lamb at least gave Northamptonshire a fighting chance as he mixed business with occasional pleasure, the lasting memory was the quietness of it all.

Muggy conditions tend to make people lethargic, but at the County Ground they were positively comatose. The argument, perhaps, was that Hampshire set the pace on Friday, a substantial first-innings lead beckoning, but then Kevan James took over four hours to register an unbeaten 49.

For excuses, Hampshire could point to the umpire Ray Julian's verdict. 'Variable bounce,' he said, 'and a very funny wicket for Southampton.' Blame it on the pitch, then, because this looks a real struggle with conditions favouring bowlers - and none more than Cardigan Connor, who has taken 10 wickets in a match for only the second time.

All of which put Lamb's contribution into perspective, because without him the visitors would have long been dead. No sooner had Lamb brought up the first 100 stand of the contest than Connor was celebrating double figures with the removal of Mal Loye, the Northamptonshire captain's partner, taken at second slip by Paul Terry for 48.

Old faithful fingers, though, had let Lamb off the hook on 27 at silly mid-on the previous evening off Shaun Udal, and a costly miss it proved. Lamb, with just a NatWest Trophy century behind him in a lean summer, went on accumulating, three of his best shots reserved for Raj Maru's introduction.

The slow left-armer, however, applied the brake after disappearing for three boundaries in two overs while Northamptonshire's extraordinary run of leg-before decisions continued. Four in the first innings became five in the second by the time Udal had accounted for Tony Penberthy and David Ripley.

And Lamb? Well, he was stumped charging Maru, while Udal pushed for a Test place by removing Roberts, Ambrose and Hughes, the fourth successive match in which he has claimed five victims in an innings. John Hughes had featured in a last-wicket effort worth 63 with Nick Cook (43) and Hampshire face a tall order of 282 to win tomorrow thanks to Curtly Ambrose's removing Tony Middleton and then Giles White.