Cricket: Middlesex mortified: Northamptonshire victorious

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Middlesex 259-6; Northants 262-3. Northants win by 7 wickets

THAT Allan Lamb entered July without a century in the bank should have been sufficient warning to Middlesex. The Northamptonshire captain carved his inimitable way to a competition-best, unbeaten 127 to bring off a handsome victory.

Until last Sunday, Northamptonshire had failed to record so much as a single one-day win over first-class opposition this season. Rarely, though, did they appear likely to miss out here. On a ground where bowlers do the serving and the batsmen the devouring, slapdash strokes from Mike Gatting and John Carr stalled the home momentum after an opening stand of 78 between Mike Roseberry and Desmond Haynes, and the Middlesex total fell a good 20 or so short of adequacy.

If anything, Nick Cook's artful stint of left-arm spin was even more valuable than Curtly Ambrose's 2 for 23 from his alloted dozen overs. Critical, too, was the sprawling catch Rob Bailey took at deep backward square to up-root Haynes just as he was beginning to branch out.

Nigel Felton and the free-striking Russell Warren sent Northamptonshire on their way with a stand of 54, whereupon the downfall of both in the space of three overs served merely to usher in Lamb. Just turned 40, he still has few peers when it comes to locating gaps in even the farthest flung fields, and with Bailey bedding down as his partner, the game was soon slipping from Middlesex's reach.

Amid the ensuing mayhem, Lamb tore his right hamstring, yet this seemed only to increase his desire to get the job done sooner. Having reached 50 off 52 balls, he only required another 36 to pass three figures. With the third- wicket alliance worth 163 in 32 overs, a Northamptonshire 60- over record for the wicket, Bailey - who had reached his 50 off 88 balls - chipped tamely back to Phil Tufnell.

Lamb and Mal Loye then terminated affairs with a flourish, swatting 25 between them off Tufnell's last over to seal the spoils with six overs to spare, Lamb ending proceedings with a six. The prospect of missing South Africa's visit to Northampton is unlikely to please him, but the memory of this effort should serve as ample compensation.