Cricket: Scott in pole position

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The Independent Online
Durham 545-8 dec; Northamptonshire 156 and 302. Durham won by inns and 87 runs

NOT SO long ago Durham's position in the Championship was as predictable as the Government's showing in the polls. At the start of the season they were 200-1 to win the title and, while they might still win a general election first, those odds are beginning to look a trifle silly.

Their performance at the compact Hartlepool ground was admirable, not least for coming immediately after being thumped to all parts by one Brian Lara. In all the justifiable praise for the world record-breaking innings there were undertones about the quality of the opposition. But Durham put those runs behind them and dominated the match against Northamptonshire to win by an innings and 87 runs.

An opening hundred stand on the first dayand a total of 545 including two individual centuries was all followed by a fielding performance in which they were for the most part relentlessly efficient. Northamptonshire without their captain, Allan Lamb, and their spearhead, Curtly Ambrose, readily succumbed. Their efforts in both innings suggested there was peril in the pitch which simply did not exist.

Yesterday, Rob Bailey tried hard - but vainly - to play an acting-captain's innings, Alan Fordham played some rasping square drives but it was left to the resilient Kevin Curran to provide any prolonged resistance. He made an unbeaten 91 from 137 balls with 15 confident fours. But the match was long since lost. Starting the day 381 behind, Northamptonshire lost their first second-innings wicket in the day's fourth over which was a pretty accurate portent. There were stands of 74 for the third wicket and 80 for the seventh but these should not have represented the heights of their resistance.

Anderson Cummins returned the best match figures of his career, ten for 104 including a sizzling three for 0 in 10 balls after tea. He won three leg-before decisions through the quality of his pace and length, which was decisive.

The support bowling, so pummelled at Edgbaston, was never in danger of anything remotely similar. If Cummins worked up a hearty pace not too often seen on county grounds, it was noticeable too that the 17-year-old Steve Lugsden, in only his third Championship match, made the batsmen hurry.

The Durham individual who perhaps got most from yesterday's play was Chris Scott. At Edgbaston against Warwickshire, he put down a straightforward chance when a certain batsman was on 18 and got 483 more. The man who dropped Lara will forever be recalled, but Scott took four catches yesterday. One of them involved moving sharply to his right, another from a mishook above his head. He deserved those successes and Durham are showing the pollsters the way.