Curran controls vital elements

Northamptonshire 198-7 Middlesex 131 Northants win by 67 runs
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Maybe it was the near gale-force winds. They whistled and howled their way round a sunny Lord's and seemed to blow away all semblance of atmosphere even allowing for a crowd of getting on for four thousand. The wind certainly blew the batsmen off course, too.

It may also have been that the position of the pitch which was uncomfortably close to the New Mound Stand just as the pitch for the current Championship match is tucked up just as close to the Grandstand, had something to do with it.

With the Grandstand and the Compton Stand closed to the public and members showing their customary distaste for the Sunday League, half the ground was a sterile, gleaming, spectatorless white, which gave off a rather eerie atmosphere. Anyway, it all made for the most bloodless of cricket matches.

Having won the toss, Northamptonshire showed that it would need more than a change in the position of the pitch to improve their batting. They made a reasonable start after winning the toss but a score of 82 for 1 after 20 of their 40 overs did not look enough. Kevin Curran and Tony Penberthy were the only batsmen who looked at all convincing.

There is still a lovely satisfying crispness about Curran's stroke play and Penberthy also drove handsomely as left-handers usually do. They put on 92 in 16 overs but after Penberthy was out, Curran had little support.

When Middlesex batted, Paul Taylor bowled into the gale, which may have helped his swing, and David Follet with it. Jacques Kallis was soon bowled trying to drive Taylor off the back foot and then in quick succession Paul Weekes missed a straight full-toss and Mark Ramprakash and Mike Gatting were both lbw on the front foot. Still it was less than gripping but, come to think of it, it might just have been me.

We now had the most exciting moment of the afternoon when an especially strong gust of wind noisily rearranged the ceiling of the press box. But it did not rearrange the bowlers' control, Kevin Curran taking four wickets for 36, and in spite of a brave fifty from Jason Pooley, Middlesex never recovered from their poor start.

n David Byas scored 72 and Michael Vaughan 66 as Yorkshire beat second- placed Essex by four wickets.

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