Second best is the target for Lamb

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reports from Northampton

Worcs 196 & 237-6 dec Northants 174-9 dec & 265-5 Northants win by 5 wickets

Northamptonshire could do no more than win and this they did, relatively comfortably in the event, with 6.4 overs and five wickets to spare after Worcestershire had generously offered them 60 overs to reach 260.

Alan Fordham made an accomplished century, his fourth of the summer in first-class games, and his 127-run partnership with Allan Lamb was enough to ensure victory.

But there was an air of disappointment enveloping it all. Lamb, about to relinquish the captaincy, had led his side through an exhilarating Championship campaign but it has come to nothing as Warwickshire, who defeated them in the NatWest final 10 days ago, are out of their reach in the race for the title, too.

So second place, where they have finished four times, is all they can hope for. Not that this is a matter of minor consequence, carrying a prize of pounds 27,500 against pounds 15,000 for third. However, by scraping home at Uxbridge, Middlesex extended the gap between themselves and Northamptonshire to 12 points with one round to go.

Worcestershire, 54 for 1 at Saturday's close, made rapid progress, thanks to Tom Moody and Philip Weston, the latter hitting 11 fours and two sixes before becoming Anil Kumble's 102nd victim of the season at 89. Kevin Curran had accounted for Moody with a ball that stayed unplayably low, a quirk of the pitch which possibly persuaded the Worcestershire captain to be more sporting in his declaration, made half an hour after lunch, than he might otherwise have been.

But if the surface was not wholly reliable it never inconvenienced Fordham, who gave the chase impetus from the start and maintained it in spite of losing his first two partners cheaply. Fordham's 126 contained 17 fours and a six and leaves him requiring six more for 1,000 first-class runs for the season.