Swann strikes as concerns over turning pitch subside

Northamptonshire 177 & 63-1 Worcestershire 292





Northamptonshire were docked eight points for preparing a substandard pitch last season - after beating Worcester- shire - which means that they can anticipate losing 12 should they be found guilty of a similar misdemeanour this year.



Northamptonshire were docked eight points for preparing a substandard pitch last season - after beating Worcester- shire - which means that they can anticipate losing 12 should they be found guilty of a similar misdemeanour this year.

Little wonder, then, that the arrival of the ECB pitch liaison officer, Phil Sharpe, yesterday was disconcerting for a team, fresh from promotion, who will probably need every point they can muster to avoid relegation.

Sharpe's presence was not at the behest of the umpires but of Alan Fordham, the ECB cricket operations manager, who noted the 10 wickets taken by spin on the first day. Just as well for the home side that Worcestershire looked more at home against the turning ball than they had.

All of their batsmen survived the attentions of Graeme Swann and Jason Brown long enough to look set. None went on to make a substantial score but they had enough runs to lead by 115. But they will regret not stretching the advantage after a stand between Ben Smith and Vikram Solanki ended disastrously in a run-out.

After the loss of Graeme Hick and Stephen Peters to Swann, the fourth-wicket pair made steady progress, taking it in turn to loft Brown for six over long-on.

But no sooner had they eased in front, adding 56 in 17 overs, than Solanki went for a second run and was foiled by Tim Roberts' arrowed throw. Smith, the captain, put on 49 with Gareth Batty before popping a catch to silly mid-off just before lunch.

The hosts reached 63 for 1, cheered by Sharpe's verdict that the pitch was blameless.

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