Fordham's defiance tips the balance

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The Independent Online
reports from Edgbaston Northamptonshire 152 and 254-5; Warwickshire 224

The balance has tilted one way and the other in this contest, in which both sets of players have performed in a manner which befits the occasion. With Warwickshire eager to extend their lead in the Championship and Northamptonshire, lying second, anxious to cut it, the outcome could be of huge importance in deciding where the pennant eventually flies.

For most of yesterday, the odds seem to favour the title holders but on a pitch that has demanded graft from the batsmen, a chase stretching much beyond 200 will not be a straightforward affair. Closing the day with a lead of 182 and four wickets still in hand, Northamptonshire are not out of it.

They can thank Alan Fordham for this. The opener's reputation for consistent high scores has suffered this season. At one point he was dropped but the experience has been beneficial.

Batting with considerable application in the face of bowling of sustained hostility, Fordham recorded his third century since being restored to the side. So far he has frustrated Warwickshire for more than five hours and, apart from a sharp chance to second slip when he was 11, there have been few errors.

That he is still there represents a psychological boost for the pretenders, who had to survive a ferocious assault by Allan Donald after tea. He generated frightening pace on what is essentially a slow pitch.

Introduced just before tea with Northamptonshire 38 in front, Donald's first delivery took Allan Lamb's feet from under him, bringing a look of anguish to the bowler's face as the ball spun away for four leg byes. His frustration was brief as in his next over he bowled him with a perfect yorker.

Earlier, batting of comparable obduracy from Roger Twose had given Warwickshire a first-innings lead of 72, the opener batting more than five and a half hours for a courageous 140 before Capel, claiming career-best figures of 7 for 44, dismissed him with the last ball of the innings.