Moody's men clinch title after declaration

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The Independent Online

Mike Hussey signed off for Northamptonshire in characteristic style at Wantage Road yesterday but could not prevent Worcestershire from securing the Championship Second Division title.

The prolific Australian - who is to take a break from cricket at the end of this season - hit 79 in possibly his final Championship innings for the club, lifting his tally to 1,697 runs in the competition this year at a remarkable average of 89.32.

He boosted Northamptonshire to 379 for 9 at the close, and a lead of 403, but Worcestershire had already sealed top spot in the first hour of the day by declaring on 172 for 8 to deny their second-placed opponents maximum bowling points.

The home side could also be in trouble over the state of the Northampton pitch. Sixteen wickets fell on the first day, 12 of them to spinners, and an ECB panel - comprising the pitch liaison officers John Jameson and Chris Broad, plus the ECB's consultant, Chris Wood - was convened at close of play.

A decision on a possible pitch penalty is likely to be announced today. But not even a maximum 20-point penalty would affect the county's promotion to the First Division for next season.

Resuming first thing on 139 for 6, Worcestershire added 33 in 14 overs for the loss of David Leatherdale and Matt Mason. When Mason was bowled by Graeme Swann, who finished with 6 for 66, Ben Smith declared the innings closed to protect his side's advantage at the top of the table.

The decision was greeted with boos from a few Northamptonshire supporters, but the Worcestershire coach, Tom Moody, was unrepentant. He said: "The bottom line is that we came to win the title, and we took the first chance we had of doing it. Our guys have worked hard this year and deserve to be in the First Division."