Cricket: Maddy plays the percentages

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The Independent Online
Leics 422 & 298-7 dec Northants 425 & 212-5

Match drawn

Playing the percentages was Leicestershire's game yesterday, flouting the thought of 16 points for victory with the fail-safe three for the draw. They now head the Championship table by that margin over Yorkshire, who have played an extra game.

In most years during early August in the old 24-match programme, the advantage would have been tenuous, but with only six games remaining, the psychology of reaching the top means much for Leicestershire.

What may have been construed as the reason for their batting on after lunch in order to allow Darren Maddy, on 99, a first Championship hundred was misguided. It did have a tactical base. Northamptonshire were eventually challenged to score 296 from what became 59 overs.

Kevin Curran, with his third half-century in as many innings over the weekend, again relished batting higher in the order in the absence of Rob Bailey, Russell Warren, Richard Montgomerie and David Sales.

Curran reached 50 from 66 balls, with nine fours and a six, despite Adrian Pierson taking 4 for 49. Maddy, Leicester-born, was still the central figure of the day. A first Championship hundred is always something to savour no matter the circumstances. It was Boycottesque, but greeted by doffing his helmet and raising his arms - whether it was in his side's overall best interest remains in the confines of the dressing- room.

It took Maddy 16 balls after lunch to achieve his personal landmark and, even when he did so, Leicestershire did not declare, which suggested that they would have batted on anyway.

James Whitaker, the injured captain, whose responsibilities had passed for this match to Phil Simmons, made a few points. "We wanted to set a big score and get men around the bat to pressurise them. However, I was disappointed by our scoring tempo before lunch."

The 22-year-old Maddy, pushing and prodding, completed his second first- class century - following 131 against Oxford University last summer - from 298 balls, with seven fours, in almost six hours.

"It will do Darren a power of good breaking the barrier," Whitaker said. "His confidence will grow." With Ian Sutcliffe, the Oxford University batsman and a Leicestershire newcomer last season, now available, Maddy needed runs to keep his place.

Aftab Habib's position is under pressure after his two batting failures in this match, which foreshadows three games at Grace Road and a magical mystery tour of potential variable weather conditions to Swansea on Thursday, Trent Bridge and finally Chester- le-Street in deep September.

A curious morning provided only 38 runs for Maddy, together with two wickets, both run out, for which the subsequent centurion could take much responsibility. In two moments of mid-summer Maddyness, he sent back Paul Nixon, who was instantly defeated by a Curtly Ambrose throw, and then collided with Ben Smith, who succumbed to Tim Walton's accuracy.

Whether Smith should have taken an angry swish with his bat at a pigeon as he left the middle was more of a case for the RSPCA than the TCCB. It was a needless expression of annoyance even though he admitted he had been suffering from a migraine earlier in the match.

The thought that Leicestershire could afford to lose against the next- to-bottom team was confined to last year's scoring values. With new regulations of three points for a draw, the Championship has taken on a different idiom, but Northamptonshire scored a moral victory with 11 points overall to Leicestershire's nine.

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