Northants 267 and 280 for 7
IT WAS hard work on a grey day for Northamptonshire, but they clawed their way back into the match thanks mainly to fine innings from Kevin Curran and Mal Loye. Brian Lara failed to take the field, complaining of a headache. Northamptonshire will hope that he fails to locate any aspirin before Monday, as their position remains insecure.
Northamptonshire resumed yesterday morning 179 runs behind, following-on for the third time this season. Nigel Felton and David Ripley took advantage of Dermot Reeve's generous field-placing to add 26 to the overnight total, scoring several boundaries through the vacant third-slip area.
Neither batsman seemed confident and Tim Munton and Paul Smith were soon rewarded for some aggressive but controlled seam bowling. Felton walloped a ball from Smith straight to Trevor Penney at point and was gone for 23. With no further score, Ripley nudged a lifting delivery from Munton to the wicketkeeper Keith Piper, and the Munton-Piper combination soon accounted for Rob Bailey as well.
Enter Allan Lamb, bristling with aggression, but Munton beat him all ends up first ball, and Smith peppered him with bouncers. Meanwhile, Loye was having a quiet time at the other end, and brought up his side's 50 with a poke to leg.
Reeve brought himself on to replace Paul Smith. The Warwickshire captain's bowling action resembles a semaphore operator who has lost his flags, and Lamb seemed to get the signal. He belted Reeve through the covers for four, then thumped a straight drive for another.
Reeve called up the spin of Neil Smith, who decided to demonstrate the spring in his heels, skipped down the wicket and swung towards mid-on. If he had not been bowled, he would have been stumped.
Northamptonshire were now 83 for four and the prospect of play on Monday seemed remote. But Loye and the new batsman, Curran, were unperturbed, and when the Warwickshire bowlers returned rather sluggish from lunch, the shots began to flow.
Curran took to the bowling of the Championship debutant Graham Welch with relish, hitting the 22-year-old seamer out of the attack with three fours in an over. Loye found Smith's spin equally tasty, and reached his fifty just before tea. After the interval, Curran simultaneously brought up his half- century and took his side into the lead. He celebrated by smiting Smith for six, but two balls later, he was caught behind off the same bowler. Penney took the catch, substituting for Piper, who had damaged a knee.
Tony Penberthy and Nick Cook fell to the returning Munton and Paul Smith, but Loye, supported by the injured Warren, remained on 99 not out at the close. Northamptonshire need more than one run from him on Monday if they are to survive.