Larkins outstays his welcome

CRICKET Northamptonshire 492-5 dec Durham 148 & 268 Northants won by inns & 76 runs
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The Independent Online
THIS was always going to be the day when Northamptonshire brought in the last of their rich harvest of points from this match and consolidated their position at the top of the County Championship with a ninth victory.

Yet the day really belonged to one of their former favourites, Wayne Larkins, whose 58th firstclass 100 graced the ground where he spent two distinguished decades.

For the Northamptonshire supporters it was like the days of old, watching Larkins drive straight to the long-on boundary or pierce the covers and mid-wicket with powerful strokes. Whether Northamptonshire's players felt quite the same is open to conjecture. Not out overnight with 35 against his name, the 41-year-old Durham opener frustrated them all morning as he and the left-handed Stewart Hutton extended their first wicket partnership to 181.

Larkins's 100 against his former club now gives him a set of centuries against all the other possible counties. It was not without moments of luck, but Larkins, with his rolled down sleeves, turned up collar and greying moustache is too much the old war horse to trouble himself over the ball just past. Typically, an immediate boundary was his repost to a dropped chance or a discomfiting delivery, and none exemplified this better than the six hit into the members that broke Anil Kumble's early morning spell.

When Larkins edged Kevin Curran just short of slip, he drove the next ball off the front foot to the cover boundary to reach his half century. David Capel was blasted back over his head moments after Larkins had enjoyed lives at 72 and 73.

Two more fours off Capel saw him into the nineties, and there was hardly a pause for nerves before he drove Jeremy Snape over mid-wicket to bring up the 100 that brought the spectators to their feet in generous applause. Their response was equally warm when he was third out for 112 in the clatter of Durham wickets after lunch. By far his highest score of the summer, it came from 168 balls with 17 fours and that six.

While Larkins and Hutton worked steadily to reduce Durham's first innings deficit of 344, it looked as if Northamptonshire might spend all day toiling in the field. On the stroke of lunch, however, Hutton edged a sharply turning off break from Snape low to gully, bringing to an end three and a quarter hours of obdurate defence.

Then with his next ball, straight after lunch, Snape caught and bowled the Durham captain, John Morris, beating him in the flight just as he was to do to Phil Bainbridge two balls after Kumble's smart return ran out Darren Blenkiron.

Five wickets had fallen for 11 runs in 38 balls, and despite a stalwart 46 from Manoj Prabhakar Durham's fate was never in doubt. A quarter of an hour after tea Northamptonshire secured the points that put them 16 ahead of Middlesex, with Snape claiming a career best five for 65.