Cricket: Lamb's final flourish

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The Independent Online
Leicestershire 352 and 240-5 dec

Northants 303-7 dec and 290-4

Northants win by 6 wickets

IF A cricket season has to end, there can be no more rewarding way of ushering it out than watching the type of innings Allan Lamb played here yesterday, which gave Northamptonshire the win they needed to finish third in the Championship with 19 balls to spare.

Lamb's unbeaten 122 was a devastating affair, made off 167 balls with 16 fours and one six. His last 72 runs came from 55 balls during which Leicestershire's worst pre-match fears about what might happen to their moderate attack turned to grim reality.

He also contrived to make Nigel Brier's declaration, which left a target of 290 from what proved to be 73 overs, look on the magnamimous side, which it most certainly was not. It was probably based on strokeplay not being too straightforward on an increasingly slow and low pitch and indeed for more than half their innings Northamptonshire were below three runs an over.

David Millns had given Leicestershire a flying start by bowling Alan Fordham off an inside edge, Gordon Parsons picked up the important wicket of Rob Bailey and with Mal Loye cast in the role of anchor man, if Lamb went early, as in the first innings, anything could have happened.

But Millns, who would not have played had this been a meaningless game, had nothing left in his locker, Winston Benjamin fired only intermittently and the burden of carrying Leicestershire's attack fell to Laurie Potter who had to try to exploit a spinner's pitch against destroyers of slow bowling like Lamb and Kevin Curran.

Perhaps because so much was expected of him (with no slow bowler in support at the other end) Potter could not make it happen. Lamb and Curran cut, drove and savaged their way to 135 in 24 overs before Curran was caught at slip off Potter, a mode of dismissal which in the context of this game had to be classed as either unlucky, unlikely or both.

At lunchtime Northamptonshire had paraded the NatWest Trophy and not long after tea the ink was dry on their Britannic Assurance cheque. All Lamb needs now is confirmation that he will continue as captain and that, after a vote of confidence to the club committee from Mike Procter, the club's director of cricket, may come sooner than most people think.