Cricket: Lamb takes command

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Northamptonshire. . . . .238 and 363

Surrey. . . . . . . . . .189 and 60-2

THIS vital match between two teams in the top four of the Championship table is also a grudge match, with Waqar Younis bowling at his ball-tampering accuser Allan Lamb. Third-day hostilities were delayed until after lunch by lingering drizzle and gloom, miraculously replaced by a clear, sharp-shadowed afternoon, secure footholds and a well-behaved wicket.

The adversaries' first-innings contributions were a modest 15 runs for Lamb and one wicket for Waqar, but a sparkling 86 by Rob Bailey, supported by Alan Fordham, had seen the home side to a commanding position by Friday night.

When Lamb came to the wicket, Fordham had worked his way back into form and was on 53. But the skipper was in street-fighting mood and both had reached 87 by the time Fordham chipped to mid-on. Lamb soon followed, as reluctantly leg before as ever, but his job was done. In this mood (93 balls, 18 fours) his short-armed bullying is as effective as ever. Northamptonshire's continued progress was in the hands of Mal Loye, who has booked a first-team place this season with some composed contributions.

Although the back half of Northamptonshire's second innings laid down and died after tea, with five wickets going for 24, the equation was probably still much what Lamb wanted. His bowlers had 28 overs and Monday to dismiss Surrey; the visitors needed a daunting 413. Surrey fought into the evening, but their target was looking even more daunting at stumps with Darren Bicknell and David Ward back in the pavilion.