Cricket: Loye's defiant display

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The Independent Online
Northants 172 and 411-4 Glamorgan 563

JUST when it seemed Glamorgan could contemplate maximum points and a day on the golf course, Northamptonshire staged a remarkable recovery at the County Ground yesterday as Malachy Loye and David Ripley demonstrated that they could also score heaps of runs on a flat pitch.

It was the fifth-wicket partnership between the former England A batsman and the 32-year-old wicketkeeper that frustrated Glamorgan so enormously and enabled Northamptonshire to erase a 391-run first-innings deficit, despite being a batsman short after Rob Bailey suffered a back injury.

After Kevin Curran had been trapped in front by Waqar Younis shortly after lunch to leave the home county 142 for 4 and still 249 short of requiring the 1997 champions to bat again, the pair put on 269 before the close. They batted through the best part of two sessions in which Glamorgan, becoming increasingly frustrated, tried virtually every bowling option available to them but failed to make another breakthrough.

Ripley's 148 represented not only a career best but his first three-figure score in the championship for six years. Having reached 50 off 85 balls with nine fours, he attacked the Glamorgan bowling with such gusto thereafter that the next half-century came off just 40 deliveries of which 10 were dispatched to the boundary.

On such a placid surface, even Waqar held no fears for him and, as much as any segment of his innings, he will remember the flurry of hooks and drives with which he hit the Pakistani out of the Glamorgan attack. Ripley had faced 185 balls and struck 25 fours at stumps.

But for all the merits of Ripley's performance, he was overshadowed even in his finest hour by Loye's splendid innings. Could a batsman who was voted young player of the year in 1993 at last be fulfilling the potential that pointed then to a Test career?

Loye has endured frustrating and painful times waiting for it to happen. Since going to South Africa on the A tour of 1993-94, he has been bedevilled by injuries and failing confidence. First it was a shattered thumb, a blow which took much longer to overcome than he anticipated. Then, just when that episode finally appeared to be behind him, a back injury wrecked his rehabilitation, taking away half of last season.

But there was no sign that he was ill at ease yesterday as he reeled off one solid drive after another, a good many straight down the pitch, to complete his first championship century since he took a double-hundred off Yorkshire's bowlers 19 months ago and then go on to repeat the feat.

Loye's first 101 came off 115 balls with 17 boundaries and nine more were added to that tally as he reached 152 in 208 balls after four hours and 22 minutes. A further 74 deliveries and half a dozen fours later, he celebrated his 200.

It was all thoroughly inconvenient for Glamorgan, who had reduced the home county to 15 for 2 when Waqar and Steve Watkin took a wicket each in the first five overs. That put into a different perspective their own first-innings total which was built around a double-century by Steve James and supplemented by hundreds from Tony Cottey and Michael Powell, a 21-year-old who was recording his first three figure score in the championship. Against all expectations, they enter the final day 20 runs behind.