Cricket: Loye continues renaissance

Lancs 230 and 438 for 8 dec Northants 332 and 274 for 6 Match drawn
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IN SPITE of the positive efforts of an in-form Malachy Loye and a determined Kevin Curran, Northamptonshire's spirited response to the challenge laid down by Lancashire at Wantage Road ultimately came to nothing.

Curran, never one to give in meekly in such circumstances, fulfilled his duty as captain by assuming personal responsibility for seeing the job through after Lancashire's lunch-time declaration left the home side to chase 337 to win from a minimum 66 overs.

The departure of Loye for 71 at tea summoned the Zimbabwean to the crease at 124 for three with 36 overs left. He was still there at the death, unbeaten on 90, but canny though his innings had been the sustained support he needed from one partner or another never materialised.

Curran faced 93 balls, his clever shot selection bringing him 14 fours as Lancashire tried to achieve the right balance between attack and containment. But a slip catch well taken by Andrew Flintoff accounted for Rob Bailey early in the final session and a valuable partnership worth 61 in 15 overs for the fifth wicket ended disappointingly when Tony Penberthy chipped a simple return catch against Mike Watkinson's off-spin.

For the next nine overs, Curran's alliance with wicketkeeper David Ripley looked as though it might win the day. But when Peter Martin uprooted Ripley's middle stump to leave Northamptonshire six down with 77 at 11 per over still required, even Curran conceded the cause was lost. Lancashire sniffed an outside chance of victory but, after four more overs without further encouragement, the acting captain John Crawley indicated to Curran that he would settle for a draw.

Earlier, Loye might have sensed he could add another decisive innings to his high-scoring sequence two weeks after his elevation to the select company of triple centurions.

The 25-year-old former England A batsman had followed his 322 against Glamorgan on the same Wantage Road ground with 149 in the first innings here and when he had reached 71 in an 83-run partnership with Bailey his aggregate in three innings stood at 542 for once out. But then Ian Austin lowered his colours and lengthened the odds against a home win.

Flintoff, who tipped the balance of the match on Friday, failed to add to his 124 but Lancashire still made significant additions to their 311 for three overnight. Devon Malcolm, dispatched for 93 in 14 overs the day before, took four for 52 yesterday.