Kumble rumbles leaders

Northants 152 & 346 Warwicks 224 & 161-6
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THE WRONG team is winning this game. Warwickshire seemed to have it sewn up when play began here yesterday, but shortly after tea they had tripped over the Indian leg-spinner Anil Kumble and were 222 runs behind Northamptonshire with six wickets down. Instead of establishing a comfortable 34-point lead in the County Championship, it was about to narrow to two points, and only partisans would forecast the eventual outcome in September.

But in an enthralling game in which fortunes have risen and fallen with a volatility that would appeal to an options trader, Warwickshire refused to lie down. Playing a marvellous captain's innings, Dermot Reeve encouraged Neil Smith to settle in and they batted for the remainder of a long day.

Having put on 108 for the seventh wicket, they have got to within 114 runs of victory. It seems improbable, but this is a game in which nothing is impossible.

For two days Warwickshire controlled the game and when play began on a hot, still morning, Northamptonshire were only 182 ahead with four wickets standing. It wasn't enough, and when Allan Donald had Alan Fordham caught behind the wicket for 101 with only 24 more runs on the board it looked as though Northamptonshire's dogged resistance was near its end. Not so: Russell Warren, Northamptonshire's wicketkeeper (atoning for having dropped a number of important catches in the last two games), was batting fluently. But when he was 35 Donald drew him forward and the thick edge went at head height directly to Dougie Brown at third slip. Brown, who had two hands on the ball, dropped it. Donald paused briefly before delivering his considered judgement. "F...ing hell," he said. The rest of the team merely thought it.

Warren batted on steadily until he was 70 and Northamptonshire were 339 when he edged Donald again. Finer this time, to Reeve at first slip, who fell backwards as he caught the ball. Leaping to his feet to celebrate, Reeve was nonplussed to find Warren standing at the wicket looking at him. Only after Ken Palmer had a discussion with Raymond Julian, the square leg umpire, which lasted long enough to imply uncertainty, was Warren finally given out.

Donald, who began like a nervous novice conceding 11 extras in his first over, re-established his usual equilibrium, finishing with six for 95 in the innings and 10 for 136 in the match. It is not surprising Warwickshire want to retain Donald next season as their bowling coach; it would stop him playing for anyone else.

Donald's exertions - he bowled 39.1 overs - left Warwickshire 275 to win and, after 25 overs had been bowled, that seemed to be much too much.

Roger Twose, who had held Warwickshire's first innings together with 140, was bowled by a good length ball from David Capel for 16. Then Kumble, who has legs as long as a showgirl's and bowls leg-spin at not far short of medium pace, had Trevor Penney and Anurag Singh caught off bat and pad. Dominic Ostler cross-batted a catch to Allan Lamb at mid-on and Brown was lbw. In his first long spell, Kumble bowled 16 overs and his four wickets cost only 32 runs. It was still afternoon, but bags were being packed. Too early, as it turned out. Reeve and Smith were about to make a game of it.

Reeve's 50 came shortly before close of play. He batted with great insouciance, once playing Kumble's steep turn with his box rather than his bat. He climbed into the forties by reverse sweeping Rob Bailey twice. The position was desperate, but he was obviously enjoying it.