Cricket: Umpire steps in to halt local difficulties

Michael Austin reports from Northampton Northamptonshire 314 Warwickshire 34-2
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The Independent Online
Like any self-respecting soap opera this could run and run, with an undercurrent of aggression bordering on animosity. By Tuesday week, when they meet in the Benson and Hedges Cup semi-final, these title-chasing counties will have spent another claustrophobic five days in each other's company.

Potentially irksome days, too, on yesterday's evidence of Shaun Pollock being warned for excessive short-pitched bowling to Mal Loye, and a heated exchange demanding the mediatory powers of the umpires.

Trevor Jesty, who stood at the football end, said: "There was a bit of hot air and a lot of chat between the Warwickshire captain [Dermot Reeve] and the batsman [David Capel]. The wicketkeeper [Keith Piper] kept trying to join in and we [myself and Tony Clarkson] told him to keep out of it."

Pollock, Warwickshire's new overseas player from South Africa, was also aggrieved because two appeals for catches close to the wicket against Loye and Kevin Curran were rejected, rightly by Clarkson, the batsmen being taken off the upper arm.

The Reeve-Capel altercation must have convinced Jesty that the week can only improve, following the criticism of Matthew Maynard, the Glamorgan captain, of Jesty's leg-before decision that sent him on his not so merry way in the Benson and Hedges quarter-final, against Warwickshire on Tuesday. The day had begun with Jesty telephoning Lord's as a matter of procedure because the pitch started not dry as regulations stipulate, but damp through rain seeping under the covers. Reeve, never one to miss a chance, put in Northamptonshire.

All-Midlands matches, while not so famous as Roses battles, still have the cutting edge of a scimitar. Last summer Allan Lamb, then the Northamptonshire captain, described the Warwickshire game - which his team won by seven runs - as being "a little like war", with the rider of "that's the way Championship matches should be played".

Reeve, who also rated that game as the best in which he had played, achieved his third five-wicket return for Warwickshire this time, for 37 runs, while Northamptonshire produced half-century makers in Russell Warren, Capel and Curran.

Warren made 76, with a six and 12 fours from 141 balls, before his off- stump was torn out by an express delivery from Pollock. It was a curiously comprehensive dismissal for someone who had batted for almost three hours.

Between some now familiar Warwickshire histrionics, notably when Piper leapt into Reeve's arms after Tony Penberthy's dismissal, they fielded as champions should. Dominic Ostler held a sizzling one-handed slip catch to oust David Ripley in the presence of Graham Gooch, the England selector.

Gooch was doubtless eager to hear fitness reports about Nick Knight, the Warwickshire opener and strong England candidate, for the first Test against the tourists at Edgbaston next Thursday. Knight has a cracked left index finger but hopes to play in the Sunday match here.

Scoreboard, reports, page 26