Taylor turns in a top performance

Northants 172 and 211-4 Middlesex 157 and 302
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The Independent Online
This was something of a Bull Durham day - sticky and steamy even without Susan Sarandon, the sex and the suspenders. But some elements were there, in the sense that this is a minor league affair while the majors are elsewhere slugging it out for the title.

Going back to those suspenders, it might be worth a rethink. In the film Bull Durham, Sarandon gives a wayward pitcher her suspender belt to wear when pitching and the boy comes good. This match has seen the transformation of Paul Taylor from the wayward bowler who opened for Northamptonshire in last Saturday's Benson & Hedges Cup final. Not that I'm suggesting anything. These days it is dangerous to suggest anything about a cricketer.

On the other hand, I'd certainly venture on the evidence of this match that the left-arm Taylor is unlucky not to have played in more than two Tests for England. Nerves, obviously, get to him on the big occasion, but given his consistently aggressive pace and ability to move the ball both ways, he deserves another chance from what is touted to be a sympathetic England management team.

Yesterday, Taylor punctured Middlesex's potentially match-winning second innings with three wickets in six balls to bring his match return to a career best 11-104. The last time Taylor took 10 wickets in a match was against Middlesex here four years ago - a game which coincided with the publication of Allan Lamb's allegations of ball-tampering against Pakistan's bowlers. The fall-out from those rumbles on.

Having resumed 217 ahead with seven wickets in hand, Middlesex were restricted to just 70 more runs as the Northamptonshire bowlers, assisted by the sharp catching of Alan Fordam and Richard Montgomerie, worked through the innings.

Fordham, standing in behind the stumps for the injured Russell Warren, took a spectacular diving catch down the leg side to dismiss the left- handed Paul Weekes and capped it with a marvellous reflex take, low to his left, off Angus Fraser's inside edge. Weekes, the previous day's century- maker, added only seven runs to his overnight 133 and in all batted just over five hours, hitting 21 fours.

Having finished off the Middlesex innings on the stroke of lunch, Northamptonshire had five sessions - a minimum of 169 overs - in which to score 288. The pitch, according to hearsay, was going to take spin, and Middlesex, looking for their first win at the County Ground since 1984, had Phillip Tufnell hard at work early on.

In the event, there was more in the pitch's uneven bounce for the seam bowlers. Jamie Hewitt's three wickets in 25 balls rocked Northamptonshire back on their heels, but after Rob Bailey lost patience against Tufnell, a well-judged half century from David Capel and Kevin Curran left the home side needing 77 runs for victory tomorrow.

Quite what Tufnell was doing bowling over the wicket for much of this partnership beggars any description.

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