Match report provide by the ECB Reporters Network.
Middlesex 149 all out and 167
Northamptonshire 198 and 120 for three
Northamptonshire won by seven wickets
Sam Whiteman hit his maiden half-century for Northamptonshire to steer the county to their first LV= Insurance County Championship victory of the season against Middlesex. The Western Australian captain who lifted the Sheffield Shield just last month, played positively for his unbeaten 60, striking seven fours and a six as Northamptonshire reached their target of 119 with three wickets to spare just before lunch.
Northamptonshire had resumed on 30 for the loss of one wicket needing another 89 more to record their first victory of the season. Middlesex needed to take quick wickets to give themselves a chance of winning and their hopes were raised when skipper Toby Roland-Jones removed Hassan Azad with just the second ball of the day. But despite conditions favouring the bowlers, only one further wicket fell before the hosts reached their target.
Conditions were testing early on and Middlesex’s bowlers worked hard, finding plenty of movement on a slow surface to restrict scoring and keep the pressure on the batting side who were repeatedly drawn into playing and missing outside off-stump.
Azad’s early departure, leaving a ball which nipped back and trapped him in front, brought together Northamptonshire’s Australian duo Whiteman and Chris Tremain. Tremain, who had come in last night to perform nighwatch duties, hit the first boundary of the day in the sixth over, but fell leg before wicket, shuffling across his crease to a ball from Ethan Bamber.
At that stage, Northamptonshire still needed another 67 to win but Whiteman who had managed just 26 in his first three innings for Northamptonshire, took the attack to Middlesex, striking consecutive boundaries off Roland Jones, cutting him behind square and then clipping him through the on-side. He treated a short ball from Tom Helm with disdain, pulling it authoritatively for four before driving the same bowler through mid-off for another boundary.
Middlesex thought they had made the breakthrough when Whiteman cut Helm just short of gully on 32 but he continued to play freely, greeting the late entry of Luke Hollman by cutting the leg-spinner away for four and then pulling Helm for six before bringing up his half-century off 75 deliveries. He was well supported too by his captain Luke Procter who was happy to play the anchor role and finished 16 not out.
With just five needed to win for Northamptonshire, Middlesex turned to part-time bowler Sam Robson before Whiteman pulled him through midwicket for four to seal victory.
Northamptonshire closed in on their first LV= Insurance County Championship win over Middlesex since 2010 after the visitors suffered a fourth batting collapse of the season on day three at Wantage Road.
The visitors’ top order had misfired in their first three innings since returning to Division One and this was Groundhog Day as they plummeted from 37-0 to 107-7, Chris Tremain the chief destroyer with 3-41
A 52-stand between Toby Roland-Jones and Luke Hollman at least ensured there would be a fourth day but needing only 119 to win the hosts closed on 30-1 Ricardo Vasconcelos the man to fall.
Middlesex’s latest woes willow in hand came after Northamptonshire were bowled out for 198 on the stroke of lunch, a first innings lead of 49, Rob Keogh left unbeaten on 75, Roland-Jones returning 4-53 and Ethan Bamber 3-42.
Middlesex would have begun their second innings with some trepidation and Sam Robson, a man with just six runs to his name so far this season should have added a nought to that tally, only for Josh Cobb to shell a comfortable catch at fourth slip.
However, although he and fellow England opener Mark Stoneman battled to 37 the sky then fell in once more.
Robson was castled by Ben Sanderson and just two balls later Pieter Malan shouldered arms only to see the ball send his off stump cartwheeling out of the ground.
Stoneman perished soon afterwards, caught on the crease and pinned lbw as he had been in last week’s loss to Essex.
Stephen Eskinazi and Max Holden briefly stemmed the flow of wickets, but just five minutes before tea, the latter inexplicably hooked a short ball from Berg, skying a catch to the grateful Proctor at mid-on.
If tea in the away dressing-room was indigestible, things would only get worse two balls after the resumption as Tremain uprooted Eskinazi’s middle-stump and in his next over the Australian quick found the edge of Ryan Higgins’ bat presenting Lewis McManus with a simple catch.
Not even wicketkeeper John Simpson, often the man for a crisis, could stop the rot, and when he drove another one from Tremain straight to cover, defeat in three days looked likely.
Roland-Jones and Hollman (30) eased those fears with an enterprising half century stand, the former striking the ball powerfully to record a towering six and five fours in a swashbuckling 37.
Proctor though shrewdly called on the spin of Keogh to break the burgeoning stand, luring Roland-Jones out of his crease to be stumped by McManus after which the end came swiftly.
Keogh stood head and shoulders above the rest in the morning session to steer Northamptonshire to a priceless first innings lead.
The 31-year-old fresh from his unbeaten 2nd inning century in last week’s defeat to Kent, made light of gloomy conditions and a pitch which had sweated under covers throughout the previous day when no play was possible.
Keogh shrugged off the loss of skipper Luke Proctor in the first over of the day, caught at slip off Bamber to play the only innings of real quality. As wickets tumbled around him, other Northamptonshire batters groping and prodding uncertainly, their middle-order stalwart cut and drove with real authority to move to a half century from 103 balls with seven fours,
Even so, with Bamber and Toby Roland-Jones chipping away the hosts were only 25 ahead when their ninth wicket fell.
It was the signal for Keogh to go on the attack, twice launching Ryan Higgins over the ropes for six, both blows ending up on the concourse. His belligerence meant by the time Jack White’s stumps were scattered by Roland Jones, Northamptonshire’s lead had stretched into the realms of ‘more than useful.’
Rain thwarted Northamptonshire’s hopes of cementing their advantage against Middlesex, with not a single ball bowled on the second day of their LV= Insurance County Championship fixture at Wantage Road.
Umpires Nigel Llong and Steve O’Shaughnessy, who had provisionally announced a 4.45pm start following a pitch inspection, finally admitted defeat after conditions worsened during the intervening time.
A break in the morning rain enabled the teams to warm up on the outfield, with a view to resuming the match soon after midday – but those plans were scuppered by darkening skies and a heavy downpour just before the scheduled start.
Northamptonshire dominated the opening day, bowling their visitors out for just 149 before reaching 111 for three in reply, with skipper Luke Procter unbeaten on 39 and Rob Keogh 17 not out.
Middlesex endured another nightmare start as Northamptonshire seamer Ben Sanderson took advantage of their fragile top order on the first morning of this LV= Insurance County Championship clash at Wantage Road.
Sanderson, returning to the side after recovering from a sore knee, took three wickets for just two runs in his opening burst to leave Middlesex reeling on 11 for four inside 10 overs. It followed two similar top order collapses against Essex at Lord’s last weekend with Middlesex’s batters again displaying their weaknesses against the seaming ball.
Middlesex were indebted once more to Ryan Higgins who came in with the score on 36 for five and hit a vital half-century, helping the Seaxes up to 149 all out, repeating the rescue act he performed against Essex when he also hit 70.
Despite losing two early wickets, Hassan Azad and Luke Procter were fluent in reply for Northamptonshire sharing a fifty partnership to take the score to 81 before Azad was caught behind off Middlesex skipper Toby Roland-Jones for 33. They closed without further loss on 111 for three, 38 behind, with Procter unbeaten on 39.
This is something of a must-win game for both sides after they endured defeats in their opening matches, but it was Northamptonshire who made the most of conditions after winning the toss and asking Middlesex to bat.
While batting looked distinctly precarious against the moving ball and a disciplined Northamptonshire attack, several of Middlesex’s batters were guilty of playing loosely outside off stump. Indeed, the first three wickets all fell to catches behind the stumps.
Mark Stoneman was the first to go thanks to an excellent diving catch from keeper Lewis McManus before Sam Robson edged low to first slip. South African international Pieter Malan then became Sanderson’s third victim caught at second slip.
The wickets of Steve Eskinazi and Max Holden, both to lbw decisions, brought Higgins together with keeper John Simpson. The pair had enjoyed a century stand against Essex and threatened to mount another big partnership here with Simpson locating the boundary for the first time in the innings. The Middlesex keeper dug in, spending more than an hour at the crease before Procter got one to seam back and knock over his off-stump.
Higgins looked increasingly assured, unfurling nine boundaries all around the ground despite losing partners regularly at the other end. When Tom Helm fell to a stunning diving one-handed diving return catch by Chris Tremain, the end of the Middlesex innings looked nigh at 110 for nine. Ethan Bamber though kept Higgins company to frustrate Northamptonshire’s bowlers with a last-wicket stand of 39 before Higgins became Tremain’s third victim of the innings.
Middlesex lost opener Ricardo Vasconcelos early in their innings caught in the slips off Bamber while Sam Whiteman fell cheaply for 13 soon after tea trapped lbw by Higgins. That left the way clear for Azad and Procter to build a partnership and settle nerves in the home dressing room.
Middlesex’s bowlers though stuck at their task with a probing line which kept Northamptonshire honest. Once Azad fell the hosts were content to bat steadily and take the score into three figures with Procter and in-form Rob Keogh unbeaten at the close.
We caught up with Captain, Toby Roland-Jones, at the end of our LV= Insurance County Championship match against Northamptonshire
Match report provide by the ECB Reporters Network.
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