Northamptonshire's improbable victory

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The Independent Online
Cricket

MICHAEL AUSTIN

reports from Northampton

Nottinghamshire 527 and 157 Northamptonshire 781-7 dec Northamptonshire win by an innings and 97 runs

This memorable victory, achieved with 17 balls remaining, kept Northamptonshire in the Championship frame, 11 points behind Middlesex and six adrift of Warwickshire.

The remarkable factor was how it was won. Northamptonshire had surpassed Nottinghamshire's towering first-innings total with such speed on the third day that Allan Lamb, the captain, took a second and triumphant option. The innings escalated towards 800 on the final morning, with 72 runs added in nine overs.

Anil Kumble, the Indian leg-spinner, reached 91 Championship wickets with a return of 5 for 43 in 39.1 overs, but Nottinghamshire's resistance was low, although Wayne Noon spent almost three hours at the crease, making 25 not out despite being struck on the jaw while keeping wicket to Jimmy Hindson.

Kumble bowled 36 consecutive overs from the Pavilion End, and is in sight of becoming the first Northamptonshire player to capture 100 wickets in a season since Bishen Bedi in 1973. He took the final wicket of Bobby Chapman leg before, while still dazed after a gully collision with Tony Penberthy.

The earlier, critical phase involved Nottinghamshire losing three wickets in eight balls. Once Tim Robinson had played on to Kumble - the ball spinning back on to the stumps - and Paul Johnson had chipped a return catch, Northamptonshire were in a prime position.

David Capel had been warned twice by umpire John Harris for running on the pitch and disappeared from the attack, leaving Kumble and Kevin Curran to sustain the challenge. Capel had become the fourth century-maker in Northamptonshire's innings, a county record, from 87 balls.

Andy Afford was the heaviest sufferer, returning 3 for 223 in a contest which will be long recalled by Northamptonshire as they seek their first Championship title since being admitted to the competition 90 years ago. As for Nottinghamshire, they may need a new drawing board.

Johnson, next season's captain, played two poor strokes in being dismissed for four and nought. The side's batting remains quixotic and their fighting qualities, like those of many on the wrong end of four-day games, need an injection of steel.

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