Kumble bemuses Worcestershire

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The Independent Online

reports from Northampton

Worcestershire 124-5 v Northamptonshire

Do not yet discount Northamptonshire. After the heavy rain of Thursday it took two more sessions for the field to dry out here yesterday, but the scattered knots of home supporters who waited for play to start at 3.30 found their patience rewarded.

The probability still is that the Championship is bound for elsewhere, but the 43 overs bowled in deepening gloom last night were enough to keep a light shining for Allan Lamb's team. Worcestershire had progressed to 102 for 1, but then stumbled to 113 for 5 and might count themselves fortunate not to be resuming today in even worse shape.

In fact, five lights were shining alongside the scoreboard by yesterday's close, but Lamb brought on Jeremy Snape to bowl off-breaks in combination with Anil Kumble's wrist-spin and the tiny crowd were allowed their money's worth.

Conditions could not have been much better for Kumble, who again emerged as the devastating ace in Northamptonshire's hand, wresting the initiative with three wickets in the space of 26 deliveries.

In no one have Northamptonshire invested more hope of securing the first Championship than their Indian Test player and it was he who broke Worcestershire's fruitful second wicket partnership when Tom Moody, aiming for the shorter scoreboard boundary sent the ball soaring in the other direction to be caught at extra cover.

Snape, the catcher, then had Philip Weston caught low down by David Capel at slip before Kumble pushed through a quicker ball to bowl David Leatherdale and then had Steve Rhodes pushing forward warily, caught off bat and pad. Kumble needs only three more successes now to emulate Bishen Bedi, the last Northamptonshire bowler to record 100 Championship wickets in a season, 22 years ago.

Much now depends on the kindness of the weather and the fallibility of their rivals but Northamptonshire may yet end their long wait for the title. Indeed, they may win two: with a victory over Sussex at Hove yesterday, their Second XI lead the Rapid Cricketline table and will be champions if Hampshire fail to beat Leicestershire next week.