Snape shows real bite

Kent 306 & 99-2 dec Northants 84-0 dec & 322-9 Northants win by 1 wkt
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The Independent Online
There's a lot to be said for four-day cricket, even if virtually two days are written off because of the weather. The winning target may have been contrived at but no Northamptonshire supporter was moaning after the bottom-of-the-table side recorded their first Championship victory of the season.

And what a victory. They kept everyone waiting until the last ball. Four runs were needed and Kent's pacy Ben Phillips was steaming in.

Northamptonshire had needed seven runs off that over. The last man, Scott Boswell, scrambled a single off the second ball. That brought Northamptonshire's latest hero Jeremy Snape on to strike. He could do nothing with the first two deliveries he faced, but the pair of them conjured up two leg byes off the penultimate ball.

Then came the moment. Four wanted off the final ball. Snape waited. Phillips strayed slightly off line. Fatal. Snape had the nous to lap the ball fine and the poor perspiring fielder Martin McCague had no chance. Snape's reaction was amazing. He leapt up and down and then sprinted towards The Mote pavilion, before stopping to press the batting gloves with Boswell.

The relief and confidence that the win will give Northamptonshire, now off the foot of the table, is incalculable. They had been sailing comfortably towards the victory but were hit by a rash of wickets before the last pair came together with 15 needed off the last two overs.

The foundations for the triumph though had been laid earlier. First, by the groundsman, Malcolm Bristow. This time last week the prospect of playing a match, let alone of one reaching a conclusion, was remote. The Mote was awash. Bristow worked singlehandedly to save the festival, and the fact that both sides were able to contrive a finish owes much to him. On top of that, Northamptonshire's victory owed much to David Sales. He may be only 19 years old, but he is already an accomplished batsman. Together with Rob Bailey he had helped add 137 runs to the cause in an unhurried fashion for the second wicket.

Then a hiccup. Bailey had been cruising towards three figures when he attempted to pull at a delivery from Paul Strang and was bowled a tantalising 17 runs from his hundred. At that point there was a suggestion that Northamptonshire - 86 runs away from victory at the time - would founder. Not so.

Although the Northamptonshire ship was losing a little headway, Sales, who last year became the youngest Englishman to score a double-hundred on his Championship debut, stepped on to the smouldering deck and hosed down the Kent flames with some telling blows, which were a reflection of his build - solid and powerful. He reached his half-century, the first since that double-hundred last July, off 68 balls and it included an effortless six over mid-wicket.

Unfortunately, Sales perished after losing David Ripley to a brilliant run-out by McCague. The teenager was caught and bowled by the estimable leg-spinner Strang, whose heroic 36 overs - 33 consecutively from the Rugby End - yielded a return of 3 for 84. They were 22 short of the target at that point, but Snape had already bludgeoned a six and a couple of boundaries. Paul Taylor and Mohammad Akram's departures merely left the stage to Snape.