Curran in for the kill

Northants 210 & 130-6 Derbyshire 98 & 239 Northants won by 4 wickets
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The cricket at the County Ground yesterday needed to be gripping to take the mind off the possibility of frost-bite, and so it proved as Northamptonshire inched precariously towards a first County Championship win of the summer.

A target of 128 to achieve that belated success was never a formality, because of the sustained efforts of Phillip DeFreitas, Devon Malcolm and Dominic Cork, on a pitch instilling hope in them and suspicion in the batsmen. They exploited the conditions as Curtly Ambrose had done before them, and at 77 for five, another disappointment in the home county's paradoxical season - potential champs at the one-day stuff, patent chumps in the real thing - looked possible.

Kevin Curran, characteristically, took the bold way out. His second scoring stroke was a smashed four to long-on from DeFreitas and his last one in an unbeaten 29 was the match-winner, a six in the same place off the same bowler.

Before that, two catches in successive overs from Malcolm immediately before lunch had offered Derbyshire as much hope of ascending to the top of the table as Northamptonshire had of climbing off the bottom. Mal Loye then clipped DeFreitas to midwicket and David Capel was adjudged leg- before to Cork when well forward.

Tony Penberthy stayed with Curran to the finish, and so the visitors were left to rue the lack of 50 extra runs to bowl at. That they did not have them was down not so much to some poor batting on the first day - when they were dismissed by five past two - as to the magisterial Ambrose. Yorking Cork and Malcolm yesterday morning with successive balls to end Derbyshire's second innings gave him six for 55 and match figures of 11 for 70.

The last four matches of Ambrose's farewell season have now brought him 24 wickets at 12.8, and it is only right that Northamptonshire should have won one of them. The image of those whirling arms will haunt Derbyshire batsmen for some time to come and will not help Lancashire sleep any more easily two weeks ahead of the Benson and Hedges Cup final.

"The difference between the sides was Curtly," said Northamptonshire's captain, Rob Bailey, after the match.