Northants leave it to the last ball

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The Independent Online
Yorkshire 250 and 252

Northants 357 and 146-3

Northants win by seven wickets

Northamptonshire gained the expected win that keeps them leading the Championship here yesterday, but they made it breathtakingly only off the last ball of the match after an agonising afternoon watching rain threaten to wash away their opportunity completely.

In the end, it was tight enough for Kevin Curran and Tim Walton to need a pre-ordained bye to the wicketkeeper from each of Mark Robinson's last two, predictably short-pitched deliveries, with Richard Blakey narrowly missing the stumps each time.

If that was a remarkable enough finale to a splendid contest, so was the sight of Robinson insisting on bowling the last over, with three required, just as David Byas seemed about to take him off and bring on Craig White.

The fierce way that Robinson made his point to his acting captain suggested that he either felt the game could still be saved or he was angry about some of Yorkshire's earlier bowling. Either way, it was by some measure the meanest over of the innings but, of course, much too late.

Yorkshire's problem was that they clearly did not want to play after the rain had left the surrounds soaked and the prospect of having to use a wet ball. By then Northamptonshire's allocation of overs had been trimmed from 69 to 23 and, still full of admiration for the way Yorkshire had bowled in the first innings, were all too aware that there was still room for something to go wrong.

But, surprisingly, Robinson - by common consent Yorkshire's most accurate bowler - was not used at the start, which probably helped him to get up a head of steam later, and Alan Fordham and David Capel made a rousing start against bowling that tended to be over-pitched.

When they departed in successive overs, Allan Lamb and Curran, with a mixture of the improvised and the orthodox, made 75 in 10 overs and did not need much in the way of good fortune. Lamb, painful neck injury and all, timed the ball superbly until he felt a hamstring twang and had to recall Fordham to run for him.

In considerable discomfort, he did not last much longer, his 49 runs having taken 39 balls. However, Curran stayed on and obviously relished the challenge, not least when he moved inside a ball from Peter Hartley which he deposited for six some way over cover.

Yorkshire's peformance lacked the heart and passion they had produced in the first innings and Byas, having given the new ball to Stuart Milburn, who for all his earlier efficiency was still playing in only his third Championship match, made another debatable decision when he opted to use White, whose bowling has been restricted by injury.

Earlier, Anil Kumble, with match figures of 8 for 126, helped to bowl out Yorkshire on the stroke of lunch and Byas's 88 from 218 balls was not enough to save his side.

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