Loye's day of joy

Cricket: Northamptonshire 383-9 dec Somerset 88-0

Mal Loye continued his rehabilitation yesterday with a hard-hit, fluent century in a match that has been badly affected by rain.

Only two years ago the 23-year-old right-hander seemed to be making smooth progress towards Test status. He toured South Africa with England A in 1993-4 and was regarded as one of the best young batsmen in county cricket. But last season he suffered a crisis of confidence. Unable to retain his place in a side pushing for the Championship, he played only seven matches and scored a meagre 134 runs.

Loye looked far from confident in the opening hour when Andrew Caddick, another of cricket's under-achievers, exploited the early moisture to bowl a hostile but luckless spell. Batting became considerably easier against some average seam bowling from Kevin Shine and Shane Lee.

Loye set about them with relish. He pulled anything short with dismissive ease through square leg, brought up his half-century with a cut for four off Lee and celebrated with a six over midwicket in the same over.

Lee came in for more punishment as Loye's timing kept pace with his increasing confidence. Two straight drives flashed past the hapless Australian in successive balls and Andy Hayhurst was cut, clipped and lofted for three fours in one over.

Loye was stranded on 99 at lunch but brought up his century soon afterwards with a straight driven boundary off Andrew Batty. But the off-spinner finally got his man with a flighted delivery which Loye swept at too early and was bowled.

Meanwhile Graham Rose, fresh from 13 wickets in the match against Nottinghamshire and one of the most enthusiastic appealers in the business, applied a measure of control with some probing seam and swing bowling. At one point he had figures of three for 16 off 9.3 overs in a highly effective performance spanning two spells.

But Somerset suffered more indignities as David Capel and Tony Penberthy added a quick-fire century partnership in only 16 overs. Capel was in a particularly ebullient and unconventional mood, smearing the rattled Lee for two sixes over the short square leg boundary.

With the fourth batting bonus point in the bag Robin Bailey declared at tea. Curtly Ambrose's extra pace and bounce troubled both Somerset openers but he failed to break through and with batting looking increasingly comfortable it will take some imaginative captaincy to conjure up a result tomorrow.

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<p>
When I was supporting Ray La Montagne I was six months pregnant. He had been touring for a year and he was exhausted and full of the cold. I was feeling motherly, so I would leave presents for him and his band: Tunnock's Tea Cakes, cold remedies and proper tea. Ray seemed painfully shy. He hardly spoke, hardly looked at you in the face. I felt like a dick speaking to him, but said "hi" every day. </p>
<p>
He was being courted by the same record company who had signed me and subsequently let me go, and I wanted him to know that there were people around who didn't want anything from him. At the Shepherds Bush Empire in London, on the last night of the tour, Ray stopped in his set to thank me for doing the support. He said I was a really good songwriter and people should buy my stuff. I was taken aback and felt emotionally overwhelmed. Later that year, just before I had my boy Louis, I was l asleep in bed with Radio 4 on when Louis moved around in my belly and woke me up. Ray was doing a session on the World Service. </p>
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I really believe that Louis recognised the music from the tour, and when I gave birth to him at home I played Ray's record as something that he would recognise to come into the world with. </p>
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