CricInfo Championship: Somerset v Northamptonshire at Taunton, 12-15 Sep 2001|
Somerset 2nd innings:
Northamptonshire 2nd innings:
NORTHANTS RELEGATED AS SOMERSET PULL-OFF RUN CHASENorthamptonshire were relegated to the Second Division of the CricInfo Championship but they went down fighting at Taunton.
David Ripley, Northamptonshire's captain, did his best to conjure a victory from his last first-class match but Somerset used their one-day expertise to successfully chase a target of 246 in 43 overs and they squeezed to a four wickets win with three balls to spare.
Northamptonshire knew at lunchtime, when Lancashire's match against Kent at Old Trafford was abandoned, that their only way to avoid the drop was to win and Ripley then faced a difficult decision on his declaration.
He appeared to have batted on too long when he delayed his declaration until half-an-hour before tea but his calculations proved right and Somerset set up a thrilling final session by sustaining their run chase until the final over.
Somerset skipper Jamie Cox (86) and Matthew Wood (65) both passed 50 for the second time in the match and laid the foundations for victory with an opening stand of 147 in 32 overs and Michael Burns and Keith Parsons then steered them to victory with unselfish innings.
The match produced an aggregate of 1,795 runs - the second highest in a first-class game in England - and Northamptonshire fought bravely as they made 432 for nine declared in their second innings.
Tony Penberthy anchored the innings with his third century of the summer and the acceleration came from Jeff Cook (88), Graeme Swann (61) and Paul Taylor (53) with aggressive half centuries.
Somerset spinners Ian Blackwell and Keith Dutch both absorbed heavy punishment but Blackwell emerged with figures of five for 122, his best for Somerset.
Lancashire's wash-out against Kent at Old Trafford meant that Northamptonshire needed to win this game to avoid the drop but their captain David Ripley appeared to have erred on the side of caution in his last first-class before retirement.
Ripley really needed to dangle the carrot for Somerset, who had already secured runners-up spot for the first time in their history, and his decision to bat on after Northamptonshire had built a lead of 200 surprised many.
Northamptonshire cleared their first innings arrears of 187 thanks mainly to an 89-ball 88 from Jeff Cook, his best of the season, and were accelerated to their declaration at 432 for nine by Graeme Swann, Paul Taylor and Tony Penberthy.
Penberthy anchored the innings with a patient 101, his third century of the summer, while Swann and Taylor attacked Somerset spinners Keith Dutch and Ian Blackwell.
Swann struck six fours and a six in his 48-ball 61, Taylor's quickfire 53 came from only 32 balls with seven fours and two sixes but Penberthy faced 151 balls for his century.
Blackwell and Dutch both absorbed heavy punishment but the persistence of slow left-armer Blackwell was rewarded with his best return for Somerset, five for 122 in 39.2 overs.
Northamptonshire needed to win their final game to have any chance of overtaking Lancashire and they kept those hopes alive as they cleared their first innings arrears of 187 and took a lead of 81 on a morning of positive batting.
Jeff Cook led Northamptonshire's fight-back with an 89-ball 88, his highest score of the summer, as 66 runs came in the first 30 minutes of the day.
But when Cook lost his middle stump to slow left-armer Ian Blackwell's arm ball and Michael Hussey was taken by Mark Lathwell at short leg, Northamptonshire had to regroup and the scoring rate slowed.
Hussey's 48 took his total Championship runs in his first season of county cricket to 2,055, with 1,613 of them coming in his last 18 innings.
Northamptonshire went into credit during a fourth wicket stand of 61 between Russell Warren and Tony Penberthy with Warren pulling off-spinner Keith Dutch for six.
Warren then fell to a low catch by Keith Parsons at silly mid-off but Penberthy, who straight drove Dutch for six, and Graeme Swann helped Northamptonshire to 268 for four at lunch and, with Lancashire frustrated by bad weather at Old Trafford, their escape route from relegation remained open.
Date-stamped : 15 Sep2001 - 18:34