Kumble's haul, gained for a scant 20 runs each, confirms him as the trump card in a strong Northamptonshire hand, one in which they retain a fast- dwindling hope of the Championship. They must win here and in Hove while Warwickshire and Middlesex fail. Their title eliminator bout against Middlesex stalled nine days ago on a sleepy Uxbridge wicket, and the weather - which delayed the start of this game until 3.30 on Friday - is forecast foul once more.
After Northamptonshire's daring win against Nottinghamshire two weeks ago this has meant frustration for a buoyant side and for skipper Allan Lamb, who will return next season in a less demanding role.
Batting by 12.30 yesterday, Northamptonshire must have envisaged cracking a fast, vast total so that Kumble could tweak more pressure tomorrow. Worcestershire, bowling for pride and mid-table points, refused to co- operate. The home side stumbled and, with 22 overs of a sunny evening remaining, Lamb declared 22 runs behind. Not for the first time Russell Warren, finishing his season in style, was the most impressive batsman.
What Northamptonshire desperately needed was a crop of evening wickets, but the harvest was disappointing, as the visitors scored readily with one loss.