Grayson guides Essex home

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Northamptonshire 198-8 Essex 199-8 Essex win by two wickets

Essex have had an awkward few days here. First, they lost a County Championship match they should have won and then, they read in the Sunday newspapers that they must prepare themselves for life after Graham Gooch. Finally, however, they won yesterday's Sunday League game, thanks to Paul Grayson's fine innings, to hang on to the joint leadership.

Essex must have felt that a target of 199 would not have given them too much trouble, although the pitch was not the easiest for strokeplay. They also found that Northamptonshire fought them to the end in an attempt to maintain an outside chance for themselves in the Sunday League.

An excellent first six overs by Paul Taylor prevented Essex getting off to a fast start. Neither Stuart Law nor Nasser Hussain found it easy at first after the early loss of Paul Prichard. They had reached 53 in the 13th over when Hussain, disregarding the first principles of running between the wickets, blatantly ran out Law.

After 20 overs, Essex were 77 for 2 and six runs later Hussain reverse- swept Jeremy Snape straight to backward square leg. Ronnie Irani and Paul Grayson then added 72 in 13 overs, but still the asking rate was just over eight runs an over. Then, Irani skied David Capel to the wicketkeeper and in his next over Danny Law was yorked.

With three overs to go Essex needed 28 to win. John Emburey bowled two of them and Tony Penberthy the other. In the general helter-skelter three more wickets fell, nine runs were needed from the last over, two from the last ball and Grayson saw Essex home.

Northamptonshire had themselves made a poor start, losing three wickets for 46 in 14 overs and at the half-way stage were only 63 for 3. Rob Bailey and Capel produced a splendid stand, adding 122 in 21 overs and taking the game out of Essex's hands.

Both reached excellent half-centuries and Bailey showed that there is no Englishman who hits a cricket ball harder. But he swung once too often at Irani and was bowled, while Capel soon afterwards skied a catch to the wicketkeeper, enabling Essex able to prevent Northamptonshire from reaching 200.

n Shaun Young clubbed Gloucestershire to a seven-wicket win over Derbyshire at Cheltenham for their first Sunday League win in six matches. The 27- year-old Tasmanian finished with 85 in Gloucestershire's 247 for 3 after striking seven sixes and five fours off 61 balls.