Curran turns current

at Northampton Northamptonshire 321 & 312 Gloucestershire 293 & 127-8
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The Independent Online
IF ANY Northamptonshire players harboured thoughts earlier in this match that Gloucestershire had come here for the taking, they were quickly dispelled on Friday evening, first by the loss of their top five batsmen and secondly by one of Allan Lamb's frank team talks. Their response to both was typical of their championship-chasing cricket this summer. Kevin Curran and the bottom five added 192 runs to the precarious overnight score of 120 for five and so left Gloucestershire requiring 341 to win.

Losing Matt Windows to a rash slash to cover in the second over was not the start Gloucestershire wanted and, by the close, Northamptonshire had their 10th championship victory in their grasp. At Cheltenham a fortnight ago, Mark Alleyne and Andrew Symonds saw Gloucestershire to victory from an unpromising position to display the fighting qualities that have been a feature of their cricket this season.

However, the second-ball dismissal of Symonds, going the same way as Tony Wright in a three-ball burst by Paul Taylor, ended the chances of a repeat performance. Tim Hancock, after a promising start, had already had several close calls for lbw before Roy Palmer finally agreed to David Capel's appeal, while a marvellous low catch by Rob Bailey, one-handed to his right, sent back Lynch and Anil Kumble's 82nd wicket of the season tolled the bell for both Alleyne and his side.

The irony will not be lost on the travelling Gloucestershire supporters that Northamptonshire owed their recovery to Curran, one of their former players. There have been times when Curran's application has had its critics, but yesterday it could not be faulted.

Perhaps the upper-cut four to third man off the third ball of the morning got the faults out of his system, because after that he kept his head down and chose his shots in keeping with the situation. The hook off Alleyne that took him past 50 was only his sixth four in 134 balls, by which time he had been batting almost two and three-quarter hours. After lunch he showed a greater appetite for boundaries, and when Javagal Srinath had him lbw he had hit 13 in his 84.

Not for the first time this summer, Taylor gave the Northamptonshire innings a good start after resuming as nightwatchman. He followed his 86 against Durham in the previous match with a valuable 31 that began passively and took flight with a cheeky reverse sweep off Martyn Ball. When Gloucestershire finally broke through in the 26th over of the morning, Taylor and Curran had put on 75 in 29 overs and set Northamptonshire on course to a match-winning position.

The breakthrough was achieved by the leg-spin of Vyvian Pike. The left- handed Taylor attempted to pull and managed only to drag the ball on to his stumps. However, the ball that bowled Capel behind his legs on the stroke of lunch was a leg-spinner's delight.

Pike may look somewhat diffident for a leg-spinner, particularly in comparison with this game's other exponent, Kumble. But he does give the ball a tweak and time in the air. In tempting Jeremy Snape to drive he was rewarded with a lovely one-handed catch at slip pouched by Lynch, and suddenly there was the chance that Northamptonshire could be accounted for. Instead Kumble unleashed a not out 40 off 42 balls to emphasise the commitment that has put Northamptonshire on top of the table.