Reeve rides his luck to victory

NATWEST FINAL: Captain's innings seals it for Warwickshire as dropped catches and disputed decision cost Northamptonshire dear
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Northamptonshire 200 Warwickshire 203-6 Warwickshire win by 4 wickets

The not unreasonable assumption that yesterday's denouement would be marginally less enthralling than a car boot sale resulted in only a third of Saturday's spectators reclaiming their seats but, in the event, scarcely a single one of those seats supported a bottom perched anywhere other than nervously on the edge.

Predictable though it ultimately was that this would become the 10th consecutive final to be won by the side batting second, Northamptonshire made such a decent fist of it that Warwickshire only just squeaked home on the back of a familiarly inventive innings from their hyper-active captain, Dermot Reeve.

If Reeve is not the most irritating one-day batsman in the country to bowl to, it is hard to imagine who is. He hops and fidgets around the crease, constantly adjusting a box apparently filled with itching powder and, quite apart from keeping Warwickshire in touch with a second consecutive treble, Reeve also made certain of his place in England's World Cup squad with one his trademark innings - nought out of 10 for style, 10 out of 10 for effectiveness.

This was a pitch hopelessly unsuited to one-day cricket, so slow that each delivery could have been accompanied by one of those recorded BR messages apologising for its late arrival. What it did do, however, was transform Northamptonshire's apparently inadequate 200 into a defendable total.

In fact, with Warwickshire still needing 64 from the final 10 overs, and Reeve having just arrived at No 7, Northamptonshire were favourites.

They would probably have won, too, but for their own fallibility in the catching department, and a couple of umpiring decisions which, back in Cobbler country, might well have prompted an outbreak of boots puncturing TV screens.

Roger Twose, having survived dropped catches on six (a relatively simple one to David Capel at slip off Tony Penberthy) and 23, had just completed his half-century when umpire Merv Kitchen rejected Paul Taylor's lbw appeal, and if that one was close, it was hard to believe that Reeve would have had a stump left standing had his back leg not been in the way of an Anil Kumble delivery in the next over.

Dickie Bird, however, has made a career out of keeping his finger in his pocket, and it was a non-decision which effectively turned the match. Warwickshire still needed 58 off nine overs at that point, and Reeve was busy mirroring every other batsman's struggle with five singles off his first 24 balls.

However, his next 23 deliveries yielded 32 runs, and such was the Warwickshire captain's response to an innings in danger of comatosing, that there were seven balls remaining when he clubbed Taylor through the covers for the winning four.

Northamptonshire made one other costly error in the field, Alan Fordham spilling one at long leg at a time when Dominic Ostler had made only 11 of his 45, and Warwickshire were already being infected with self-doubt at 23 for 2. This quickly became 28 for 3 until the left-handed Twose, shortly off for a new career in New Zealand, applied the necessary sticking plaster.

Twose may well get into New Zealand's Test side, even though he is not the sort of player to have them queuing up (not to get in, at any rate) at the Basin Reserve.

Twose's fellow left-hander Nick Knight, on the other hand, could conceivably have batted himself out of an England tour place with an innings of two off 34 balls which raised further question marks about his technique outside off stump.

The biggest question mark of all, however, revolved around Allan Lamb's decision to raise two fingers to history and bat first on Saturday's delayed 3pm start. On this pitch, it was desperately hard to know what sort of total was adequate, and Northamptonshire's batsmen mostly got out with one fretful eye on the scoreboard.

Lamb was the most culpable of the lot, looking curiously nervous for a player of his experience as he came out at a pivotal 39 for 2, and flailing away at all three balls he faced. The third resulted in a sliced edge to slip off Dougie Brown, and Northamptonshire looked at one stage destined for no more than 150.

However, Rob Bailey's solid 44 gave them some sort of platform, and wicketkeeper Richard Warren might have even got them up to around 230 had it not been for some brainless batting late in the innings when Warren barely saw any of the strike.

Northamptonshire had nine balls left when they resumed yesterday on 197 for 8, but instead of attempting to give the bowling to Warren, Kumble flailed away, mostly at fresh air. When it came to the nitty gritty moments, you could have boiled a kettle on Northamptonshire's heads, while Reeve's, as ever, was the coolest in the place.