Loye recovers his confidence

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The Independent Online
Worcestershire 217-7 Northamptonshire 218-6 Northamptonshire win by four wickets

This was a kaleidoscopic match, with many angles and delightful contrasts, though tightly contested. It turned a colour of Benson and Hedges gold for Northamptonshire, notoriously slow starters in the competition, as Paul Taylor's seam bowling and the resurgent batting of Mal Loye brought success with an over to spare.

Of Worcestershire's potential match-winners, Phil Newport was absent through back trouble and the others, Tom Moody and Graeme Hick, failed, facing only 16 balls between them.

Taylor, a fast left-arm, had Moody leg-before for a duck as he played limply towards the on-side after bowling Hick, who hit across the line and suffered from a typical early season pitch on which those who bowled accurately were rewarded. Taylor was, with 4-32, and the gold award.

Separating the relative performances of the 23-year-old Loye and David Leatherdale, of Worcestershire, would have been difficult if Taylor had not produced his inspired spell.

Loye's display was especially gratifying after his meagre championship average of less than 15 last season, following a fractured thumb, which had shattered his confidence at the end of the previous summer. All that, after being hailed as a potential England batsman, having toured South Africa with the A team in 1993-94.

Despite Leatherdale's influence, Worcestershire's bowlers had insufficient runs to defend. David Capel put a finer point on their problems with 43 from 39 balls, having been moved up to open the innings and exploit new regulations of nine fielders within the 30-metre ring for the first 15 overs.

Otherwise, both innings made parallel progress. With 20 overs remaining, Northamptonshire were 124 for 4, just one run behind Worcestershire's total. Loye hit two sixes and five fours from 90 balls, facing three more than Leatherdale, who shared half-century partnerships with Tim Curtis and Reuben Spiring.

John Emburey, Northamptonshire's coach, bowled 10 of the final 11 overs, taking 2 for 45 with fellow off-spinner Rob Bailey delivering the last over to illustrate how seriously he takes his new responsibilities as captain. It cost a meagre five runs.

Alamgir Sheriyar, a recruit from Leicestershire, dismissed Alan Fordham with his fourth ball for Worcestershire and also ousted Bailey and Kevin Curran, but it was another matter trying to gloss over the lack of runs and perhaps even the debatable decision to bat when the initial dampness favoured seam bowlers.