Cricket: Northants hit hold-up

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The Independent Online
Northamptonshire 494-6 dec

Worcestershire. .231 and 166-4

TIM CURTIS does not know when he is beaten, and while he remained in charge of Worcestershire's second innings he exposed a lack of imagination in Northamptonshire's strong bowling roster. He is a compact, unglamorous but mightily effective opener and was undaunted by the apparent hopelessness of the cause.

After a towering innings by Alan Fordham and a swift three- wicket mugging by Paul Taylor, Northamptonshire, who are sponsored by Dr Martens, in reducing the visitors to 68 for 8 on Friday evening, were putting a very determined boot in.

But then they seemed stricken with guilt and a battered Worcestershire were allowed to struggle to their feet. Punching boundaries through an attacking field, Phil Newport and Chris Tolley built half-centuries. The follow-on figure remained a speck in the distance, of course, but Allan Lamb, absent for some time with an upset stomach, would have wanted his bowlers to have closed the deal earlier.

Tolley and Benjamin fell to athletically taken top-edges and when a vicious Ambrose yorker removed Philip Weston's leg stump in the 10th over of the follow-on, Northants were kicking once more. But for a long period in the afternoon while Curtis thumbed his nose at them, the bowlers went back on automatic pilot, as if they knew they were going to win some time before tomorrow evening and were not too concerned when.

Perhaps surprisingly, Curtis's departure did not hurry a Worcester collapse. In Graeme Hick's absence a number of their batsmen have cases to make and yesterday evening Gavin Haynes, a pugnacious right-hander, was doing an eloquent job. At stumps, though, Worcestershire were 64 runs short of asking Fordham to pad up again.