Northamptonshire's summit chance

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The Independent Online
HUGH BATESON

Northamptonshire and their combative captain, Allan Lamb, have plenty to play for on more than one front, after a successful few days of intense action.

So far they have opened up the County Championship by recovering from a struggling position to beat Warwickshire at Edgbaston on Monday. The following day they reached the NatWest Trophy semi-finals by winning at Gloucestershire. Ahead is the possibility of hitting the front in the title race and, for Lamb, an outside chance of a short-term recall to the international scene, with both Robin Smith and Alec Stewart out of next week's fifth Test against the West Indies because of injury.

Warwickshire take a breather from the defence of their title in today's round of matches, which gives Northamptonshire, just two points behind, a great opportunity. They are at home to Durham, who have managed to avoid defeat just three times this season, and have yet to draw a game. David Capel, who needed stitches after being cut under his right eye on Tuesday, should be fit, though Neil Mallender will not be. Durham's captain, Mike Roseberry, has a chipped knuckle, which means that Wayne Larkins returns to his old home ground at the age of 41.

Both Middlesex and Lancashire have a game in hand on the leaders. Lancashire, 29 points behind Warwickshire in fourth place, should have the easier task this weekend, as their visitors, Sussex, have not won for eight matches. Paul Jarvis returns to Sussex's squad.

Nottinghamshire stand between Middlesex and upward progress from third place at Lord's, but the presence of three spinners - Tufnell, Weekes and Emburey - might be both a hint about the surface there and a decisive influence on the result.

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