Blain blossoms as Northamptonshire cruise to victory

Northamptonshire 212-5 Gloucestershire 94 Northants win by 118 runs

After winning their first four zonal matches to ensure a home quarter-final in the Benson and Hedges Cup, Gloucestershire suffered a rare humbling here yesterday as the pace bowler John Blain enjoyed one of his best days as a Northamptonshire player.

After winning their first four zonal matches to ensure a home quarter-final in the Benson and Hedges Cup, Gloucestershire suffered a rare humbling here yesterday as the pace bowler John Blain enjoyed one of his best days as a Northamptonshire player.

The 23-year-old from Edinburgh, who made a name for himself when his 10 wickets for Scotland achieved the best strike-rate by any bowler in the 1999 World Cup, took 5 for 30 yesterday, which was the principal factor in Gloucestershire's demise for a paltry 94 in reply to Northamptonshire's 212 in a match reduced to 44 overs per side.

Blain, still seeking a regular place at Wantage Road, landed his first five-wicket haul in a limited-overs game since taking five Derbyshire wickets on his Sunday League debut in 1997. It was enough to win the Gold Award, although not enough to propel his team into the last eight even with three wins from five after results elsewhere pushed them out of a qualifying position.

His first spell wrecked Gloucestershire's upper order, reducing them to 8 for 3 in the third over. In the space of just six balls, Blain found the outside edge to dismiss Kim Barnett, caught at first slip, and Ian Harvey, snapped up behind the stumps, before straightening one to clip the extremity of Chris Taylor's right pad as the batsman shouldered arms. He struck again in his fifth over, bowling the New Zealander Craig Spearman through the gate, leaving Gloucestershire on 33 for 4.

It was a start from which they never recovered. Indeed, their lowest competition score of 62 against Hampshire in 1975 was under threat as Tony Penberthy and Ricky Anderson took two wickets each to plunge them into further disarray at 48 for 8 in only the 16th over. At least that was unwelcome landmark was avoided as Jack Russell dredged some stubborn resistance and James Averis inflicted a few hefty blows before Blain claimed the latter as his fifth victim.

After a mizzly morning had delayed the start by 75 minutes, Northamptonshire's prospects of halting Gloucestershire's run looked less than convincing after they had been asked to bat first, Harvey adding quickly to his tally of 16 wickets in this year's competition. The Australian all-rounder had Mike Hussey leg before and another delivery did enough to induce an edge from Mal Loye.

More setbacks followed as David Sales steered a ball from Mark Alleyne straight to the solitary slip before Graeme Swann miscued a pull to be caught at mid-on. But from 52 for 4 the picture steadily brightened as Russell Warren (78no), aided first by Penberthy then by Jeff Cook, came up with the display of character needed if Northamptonshire were to at least give themselves a chance of reaching the last eight.

Warren's partnership with Penberthy added 44 before the latter was lbw to Averis and his fifth-wicket alliance with Cook put on 116, a county record for the competition.

BENSON AND HEDGES CUP QUARTER-FINAL DRAW
Sussex v Warwickshire
Gloucestershire v Worcestershire
Essex v Yorkshire
Leicestershire v Lancashire

Ties to be played on 21 or 22 May

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