With heavy morning rain delaying the start until 3pm, it was not long before the Northamptonshire skipper, who had led his side to victory in the NatWest Trophy here in 1992, felt pangs of regret. Only four runs had been added when Allan Donald, lithe and coiled like a spring, clean bowled Richard Montgomerie in his third over, ripping a ball inside a crabbed defence framed for survival.
A ball later he beat Rob Bailey's forward thrust on the outside, a near miss that brought the Warwickshire faithful close to fever pitch after a damp morning closed throats and opened umbrellas. Then Alan Fordham, who had been deflecting the bowling to third man, edged the South African paceman between wicketkeeper and slip. The ball possibly carried but the action was rapid and no one was sure. There were no audible admonitions from the bowler.
Movement off the seam at that pace is hard to counter, and no matter how much a batsmen concentrates, technically excellent defence is rarely applied when the need to score runs is nagging away at a batsman's conscience like a dripping tap. Perhaps it ought to have been, for Northamptonshire's eagerness to attack bordered on the foolhardy, and when Fordham went, dragging a ball on from Dougie Brown, he was merely repeating the cut shot that had failed him the ball before.
Cometh the crisis, cometh the captain. But Lamb, who, like his counterpart Dermot Reeve, thrives on the adrenalin of tense situations, lasted only three balls, as he edged a wideish delivery from Brown to Dominic Ostler, positioned at second slip. In all probability this was Lamb's last innings at Lord's, and it ended long before he could get either his juices or his footwork moving.
At 39 for three this showpiece between two of the season's best sides was in danger of petering out. But Bailey, who had hitherto been only partially effective in his application of the front-foot lunge to Donald, found his feet and several clubbed drives found the boundary.
In league with Kevin Curran, who is unused to playing minor roles and batted with great good sense, Bailey began to build his repertoire. Once he had found the best place to clip his leg-side shots, Northamptonshire began to sense a way of getting back into the game and at tea they were 67 for three off 21 overs.
Warwickshire, without their star bowler, Tim Munton, because of a strained intercostal muscle, rang the bowling changes and just as the batting side seemed to be making their way from the mire, Bailey perished six short of 50.
It was a good bit of bowling by Neil Smith, who is never afraid to flight his off-spinners wide of the stumps. After so much graft, Bailey could not resist the chance to pick up a boundary, but the carrot turned into a grenade as it cannoned into his leg stump off a scything bottom edge. David Capel then revived the aggressive approach adopted earlier, but after clouting Reeve for six into the Grand Stand, he too perished, his ambition outweighing the demands made by the swinging ball.
At this point, the Northamptonshire supporters could have been forgiven for taking their normally inspirational captain's name in vain. He had presumably made his decision because he felt that, by batting yesterday afternoon, he would force Warwickshire to negotiate the early morning dew, normally so lethal in September.
The last side to win batting first was Essex back in 1985, and that was close, with Nottinghamshire losing by one run off the final ball. But when Curran went, unluckily bowled off his pads by Donald, any hope of setting a testing target for their opponents had evaporated.
Warwickshire, quite apart from their regular breakthroughs, had never let their opponents wriggle from their grasp. Both Reeve and Neil Smith bowled intelligent miserly spells, and Trevor Penney's outstanding ground fielding at cover point brought him his usual run-out, a clean pick-up and throw beating Tony Penberthy's lunge for the line by an inch. The decision came after the third umpire had watched the television replay..
Russell Warren progressed as the leash slackened and Paul Smith was brought on as the sixth bowler. One leg-side six via long-leg's flailing hand, was sweetly struck as he and Jeremy Snape eked out vital runs and the clouds closed in again.
But once Snape had gone, caught behind to give Donald his third victim of the innings, Northamptonshire accepted the umpire's offer to leave the pitch because of the bad light, with just nine balls of their innings to go. Their one remaining match- winner, Anil Kumble, was facing Donald and the chance of his being injured was one risk that they were not prepared to take. They must also start off batting first again today.
Scoreboard from Lord's
(Northamptonshire won toss)
R R Montgomerie b Donald 1
(18 min, 17 balls; ball came in sharply to take middle stump)
A Fordham b Brown 20
(48 min, 30 balls, 2 fours; dragged ball on to stumps off bottom edge)
R J Bailey b N M K Smith 44
(94 min, 90 balls, 4 fours; dragged off-break on to his leg stump)
*A J Lamb c Ostler b Brown 0
(2 min, 3 balls; edged straight ball to second slip)
K M Curran b Donald 30
(106 min, 80 balls, 2 fours; bowled off his pads)
D J Capel c Piper b Reeve 12
(20 min, 28 balls, 1 six; edged gentle outswinger to wicketkeeper)
R J Warren not out 41
(86 min, 63 balls, 3 fours, 1 six)
A L Penberthy run out (Penney, TV replay) 5
(28 min, 12 balls; direct hit from cover point)
J N Snape c Piper b Donald 21
(30 min, 28 balls, 2 fours; edged ball of full length to wicketkeeper)
A Kumble not out 0
(1 min, 0 balls)
Extras (b4 lb8 w11) 23
Total (for 8, 224 min, 58.3 overs) 197
Fall: 1-4 (Montgomerie) 2-39 (Fordham) 3-39 (Lamb) 4-89 (Bailey) 5-110 (Capel) 6-128 (Curran) 7-158 (Penberthy) 8-197 (Snape).
To bat: J P Taylor.
Bowling: Donald 11.3-1-31-3 (w3) (6-1-18-1, 4-0-10-1, 1.3-0-3-1); Brown 10-2-35-2 (w4) (one spell); Bell 8-1-41-0 (w4) (3-1-11-0, 5-0-30-0); N M K Smith 12-1-23-1, Reeve 12-1-31-1 (one spell each); P A Smith 5-0-24- 0 (2-0-8-0, 3-0-16-0).
Progress: Rain delayed start until 3.00pm. 50: 71 min, 95 balls. Tea: 67-3 (Bailey 33, Curran 6) 21 overs. 100: 128 min, 205 balls. 150: 183 min, 298 balls. Bad light stopped play at 7.04pm.
WARWICKSHIRE: N V Knight, N M K Smith, D P Ostler, D R Brown, R G Twose, *D A Reeve, T L Penney, P A Smith, K J Piper, A A Donald, M A V Bell.
Umpires: H D Bird and M J Kitchen. TV Replay Umpire: R Palmer.Reuse content