Cricket: Northants build toward bright future

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The Independent Online
Lancashire 356 & 275 Northants 471 & 163-1 Northants win by nine wickets

Northamptonshire made relatively short work of Lancashire, comfortably putting together their third Championship victory of the season half an hour before tea.

After Paul Taylor had taken four wickets in the first hour, Rob Bailey, at his most commanding, and Mal Loye, who was rather less than that, saw them home.

This time last year, Northamptonshire, with 12 victories to their credit, were hoping, under Allan Lamb, to win their first Championship. It was not to be, however, and although this season has been much less successful they are ending it with every reason to look ahead with optimism.

John Emburey has had a big influence as their semi-active guru, and there are a number of highly promising young players coming through who should take Northamptonshire back near to the top, by the millennium at any rate. The old guru has not yet finally hung up his boots either, and will certainly be seen in limited-overs cricket next year.

One hears that Lancashire, on the other hand, are finishing the season in an unsettled state of mind. Despite winning the two major limited-over competitions, even if their Championship record is a disgrace, not everyone at Old Trafford appears to want Mike Watkinson to continue as captain. His opponents favour the choice of Wasim Akram, although the ever-increasing number of one-day competitions out East in August and September may limit his availability. The debate will no doubt continue for some time.

On this last day, Lancashire's cricket reflected this apparent lack of agreement in the dressing room. Starting 111 ahead of Northamptonshire with five wickets in hand on a turning pitch, Lancashire's remaining batsmen needed to put their heads down and graft. As it was, three were caught on the deep square-leg boundary, pulling, and a fourth was lbw playing the same stroke. Taylor was the main beneficiary and he has now taken his tally of first-class wickets to 63.

Needing 161 to win, Northamptonshire lost Richard Warren to the first ball of the innings when he drove Peter Martin to cover. Martin swung the ball away from the bat and bowled beautifully but was unlucky. His colleagues were not able to live up to him. The fielding was untidy, too, and Loye was dropped twice and Bailey once as they took Northamptonshire to victory with an unbroken stand of 163.

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