Straight six for swashbuckling Northamptonshire

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The Independent Online
reports from Northampton

Northamptonshire 564 Leicestershire 367 and 160 Northamptonshire win by an innings and 37 runs

Not since the days when Errol Flynn was in the local repertory company can there have been such an atmosphere of swashbuckling derring-do at North- ampton. Yesterday's win was their sixth in succession and did nothing to lessen their belief that this will be their Championship year.

Three times have they won six matches off the reel, in 1909, 1955 and 1958. But the title eluded all of those sides, including the latter, which had such varied talents as Frank Tyson, George Tribe, Raman Subba Row and the estimable Dennis Brookes.

It is a brave man who suggests there is more individual ability in the current side; but what they have over recent Northamptonshire teams is harmony and spirit on and off the field and a growing belief in themselves; you do not often see a team walk out alongside the umpires in their keenness to finish off the job.

Most important of all, perhaps, they also have the pitches to go with their ambition. Much as one would have liked to see Leicestershire save the game - if only as proof that English cricketers can still do it in an era when there is no reward for the draw - it was soon clear they would be swept away if their top order did not survive the new ball.

On this pitch, luck as much as tenacity was a prime requirement; its uneven growth of grass means the dice is loaded against the batsmen - three years ago Leicestershire did not even survive two days on it.

Now, having contributed to Northamptonshire's total by dropping some half-dozen catches and fielding a bowler in Alan Mullally, who turned out to be less than fully fit, Leicestershire needed a sound start when they began still 179 runs adrift.

It never happened. Tim Boon, undone by Kevin Curran's extra bounce, was soon caught off a glove down the leg side. If Nigel Briers thought it was his lucky day when a no-ball call saved him against Paul Taylor, he quickly knew the truth when he could only fend the same bowler into gully's hands.

Hanse Cronje, playing back to Curran, was bowled by one pitched off stump, a good delivery anywhere. But before that he took a blow which broke a finger on his right hand, meaning that Leicestershire will be without him for today's NatWest tie against Hampshire.

As Anil Kumble floated his googlies into the grassless patches at the other end, the innings ended in a whirl of flailing bats against Neil Mallender, and Northamptonshire now have a week's breather before taking on Lancashire at Old Trafford in what should be a mighty tussle.

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