Cricket: Maddy's finesse closes the door

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Northamptonshire 198-9 Leicestershire 199-2 Leicestershire win by eight wickets

NORTHAMPTONSHIRE have invariably been slow starters in recent seasons and events here yesterday, when they were outclassed from start to finish by Leicestershire, will hardly have done much for morale in their dressing- room.

Things will doubtless start to improve when a few batsmen manage to find their touch, most importantly perhaps Rob Bailey, around whom so much seems to be built; but they could only have watched Leicestershire's Darren Maddy and Iain Sutcliffe with admiration and a certain amount of envy.

This pair laid the foundation for a win which was achieved with 10 overs to spare, by putting on 123 together. As a left and right-hand combination, they made the most of the generous width offered them. But there was more to it. There appears to be a vacancy for an opener in the England team and if new blood is required, the credentials of not only Maddy, who had a wonderful A team tour last winter, but his partner, are worthy of close examination.

Maddy, almost old-fashioned in his correct upright technique, was a joy to watch. The angular, left-handed Sutcliffe, who seems to see the ball earlier than most, has many of the characteristics of Bill Lawry, not least around his off stump.

Together they closed the door on Northamptonshire and made the most of a hard, dry pitch which was a credit to groundsman David Bates. Northamptonshire's failure to capitalise on it after winning the toss was the key to their downfall. Leicestershire certainly bowled fast and straight on it, not least Alan Mullally who found that off-stump line which has batsmen uncertain whether to play at him or leave well alone. Once Mal Loye had gone first ball, choosing the first option, Northamptonshire were always on the backfoot.

They could scarcely claim they were unlucky except perhaps David Capel, who was given out lbw to a ball he was aiming to glance from around leg stump. But he would be wise not to make a habit of hanging around as long as he did here once the umpire's decision has been clearly given.