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MATCH REPORT | NORTHAMPTONSHIRE V MIDDLESEX - 12-04-2024

MATCH REPORT | NORTHAMPTONSHIRE V MIDDLESEX

Match report provided by the ECB Reporters' Network.


DAY FOUR

Heavy rain and blustery winds ruled out any play on the final day of this Vitality County Championship match between Northamptonshire and Middlesex at Wantage Road, both teams taking away eight points for the draw.

The players took an early lunch but with winds buffeting the covers and dark clouds circling the ground, the umpires called the game off shortly after 1pm.

The early finish prevented Leus du Plooy from adding the four runs he needed to bring up what would have been the second double hundred of his career, while Max Holden finished unbeaten on 211.


DAY THREE

Teenage opener Nathan Fernandes became Middlesex’s youngest debut centurion in first-class cricket since 1862 as the visitors piled on runs in their Vitality County Championship clash against Northamptonshire.

Left-hander Fernandes, drafted in to replace the injured Sam Robson at the top of the order, hit 103 before team-mates Max Holden and Leus du Plooy both plundered the bowling at Wantage Road, steering the visitors to 553 for two at stumps.

Fernandes, who turns 20 later this month, was the first Middlesex player to mark his first-class debut with a ton since Ted Clark in 1959 and the youngest since Isaac Walker achieved the feat against Surrey almost 100 years earlier.

Northamptonshire’s bowlers toiled gamely in the batting-friendly conditions, but they were put to the sword by Holden – who passed 200 for the first time in his career – and Du Plooy, just four short of his own double century at the close.

It took Fernandes until the sixth over of the morning to increase his overnight score of 65, but the teenager then settled into his stride with a series of classy strokes on either side of the wicket.

Fernandes was particularly strong outside off stump, cutting the seamers to the boundary and also delved into his bag of white-ball shots to dab Chris Tremain over the slips for four as he progressed towards his hundred.

That cherished moment arrived when Fernandes pulled a Rob Keogh long hop to the fence, taking him to exactly 100 from 208 deliveries and confirming him as Middlesex’s first debut centurion in first-class cricket for 65 years.

However, the opener was on his way soon afterwards, mistiming his attempt to paddle a slow bouncer from Luke Procter that ballooned up to give wicketkeeper Lewis McManus a routine catch.

The Northamptonshire skipper’s strike ended a partnership that had yielded 170, but Holden continued to accumulate runs, displaying greater attacking intent after lunch in tandem with Du Plooy.

Ben Sanderson did get the new ball to whistle just past Holden’s outside edge, but the left-hander remained composed and punched the first delivery of his next over across the off-side rope to move into three figures for the first time in red-ball cricket since 2018.

It was Du Plooy who took control of the innings, twice hammering Sanderson over long on for six and stroking a boundary to third man off Tremain to register his half-century as the Seaxes pressed the accelerator.

They secured a third batting bonus point just before the tea interval, with Du Plooy crashing four and then another straight six from successive Raphy Weatherall deliveries to complete his first Middlesex hundred in just 112 balls.

While Holden and Du Plooy declined to have a tilt at a further bonus point prior to the cut-off, their continued presence at the crease denied Northamptonshire any bowling points at all.

The pair matched each other almost stride for stride during the final session, breaking the county’s record partnership against Northamptonshire in the process and Holden was first to his double hundred, driving Saif Zaib to the midwicket boundary.

He finished on 211 not out, with Du Plooy on 196 to leave Middlesex one run ahead of their hosts’ 552 for six declared.


DAY TWO

Emilio Gay and James Sales both set new landmarks as Northamptonshire continued to dominate on day two of their Vitality County Championship clash with Middlesex at Wantage Road.

First day centurion Gay forged on to post 260 - the highest ever individual Championship score for the county against Middlesex, while Sales brought back into the side for this game, made his maiden first-class hundred with his father David and mum Abigail in attendance to mark the moment. The pair set a new fifth wicket record against the Seaxes of 181 before the hosts declared on 552-6.

For Middlesex, who conceded 620 in the first innings against Glamorgan last week, it was another case of much leather chasing, Toby-Roland-Jones their only bowler to take more than one wicket (2-81).

There was still time in the evening session for two young debutants to make an impression, Raphael Weatherall capturing his maiden first-class wicket, while Middlesex teenager Nathan Fernandes (65 not out) reached an impressive half-century before stumps were drawn with the visitors 128-1, still 424 in arrears.

As they did on the opening day, Middlesex made an early breakthrough, Roland-Jones trapping Rob Keogh, the batter risking censure by taking his time to drag himself away from the crease, shaking his head as he went, a point noted by the two umpires.

However, as on day one, the wicket proved a false dawn for Middlesex as Gay and Sales embarked on their record stand.

Gay timed the ball exquisitely straight driving first Ethan Bamber, then Roland-Jones to the fence as he eclipsed Stephen Peters’ record score against Middlesex at Wantage Road, a 183 set in 2010.

It wasn’t long before he flicked a loose one from Tom Helm to the fine leg fence to reach his first double hundred and take Peters’ record of the highest ever score against Middlesex of 199 made in that same summer 14 years ago.

Josh De Caires would give him a reprieve almost immediately afterwards, failing to hold onto a tough caught and bowled opportunity. In De Caires’ defence he probably saved four not to mention himself being decapitated by the blow.

Sales meanwhile got underway with a four through midwicket and later took heavy toll of a De Caires over, clubbing one just beyond the grasp of mid-on before driving a better shot straight in the same over on his way to 50 from 109 balls.

The hundred stand was raised by lunch as Middlesex rattled through 22 overs in the second hour’s play to rectify a previously negative over-rate.

Gay was granted a second life soon after the resumption when Bamber failed to hold an even tougher caught and bowled close to the ground and celebrated the reprieve by hoisting De Caires back over his head for the day’s first six on route to 250.

The record fifth wicket stand against Middlesex of 131 between David Capel and Nigel Felton set at Lord’s in 1989 was soon eclipsed and it was a surprise when Gay’s innings was ended via a runout.

Saif Zaib sparkled briefly, striking one six out of the ground, before all eyes fell on Sales. Already having surpassed his career-best, the 21-year-old right-hander banished any thoughts of the nervous 90s with a huge six of his own before a scampered single took him to the century to a great reception from an albeit sparse crowd.

The declaration came soon afterwards and while Middlesex openers Mark Stoneman and Fernandes survived a testing 35 minutes before tea, Weatherall’s golden moment came soon afterwards.

The youngster, who played in the England U19 Test on this ground last September took just eight balls to find the edge of Stoneman’s bat, the tickle carrying comfortably through to McManus.

That one stuck for McManus but he was grass another when Fernandes was on 24, so denying Weatherall a second victim from his opening burst.

The left-hander made the most of the reprieve, to reach a 50 including seven fours, while Max Holden survived a drop at short leg on 35 to be 40 not out at the close.


DAY ONE

Opener Emilio Gay struck a stylish, commanding 165 not out, the fifth first-class century of his career, as Northamptonshire took full advantage of being put into bat against Middlesex. The hosts finished in a dominant position on 311 for three on day one of this Vitality County Championship match at Wantage Road.

Gay, 24 on Sunday, celebrated his birthday early, striking his highest first-class score off 272 balls with 17 boundaries.

He found a supportive partner in his skipper Luke Procter who hit 73 in a 189-run stand in 65.2 overs, eclipsing Northamptonshire’s previous highest second-wicket partnership against Middlesex (179) set by Stephen Peters and Alex Wakely in 2010.

Middlesex’s bowlers, who were punished after inserting Glamorgan at Lord’s last week, must have had a sense of déjà vu but stuck diligently to their task on a largely docile wicket, deploying the short ball as the day wore on in a bid to make inroads with the Kookaburra ball.

They had cause to celebrate themselves when Ryan Higgins removed opener Jason Broad lbw in the second over of the day. But the next breakthrough would not come until after tea as Procter and Gay took control.

Once Procter fell to spinner Josh de Caires, Gay shared an 86-run stand with Karun Nair (41) before the Indian batter played on to a delivery that jagged back from Toby Roland-Jones.

The day was also memorable in that Northamptonshire secured their first home batting points of 2024 – a feat they did not achieve until 26 September last year.

Procter picked up where he left off after making 92 against Sussex. He was solid in defence, but played some crisp attacking shots during the morning, driving opposite number Roland-Jones down the ground and striking Tom Helm through square for four.

Gay at times looked vulnerable outside off-stump early on, playing and missing against the seamers when they found some movement. But he grew in fluency, playing some attractive clips off his legs, taking on the short ball, and driving firmly down the ground. A highlight of the morning session was a classy drive for four through the covers off Helm.

The pair had taken Northamptonshire to 106 for one at lunch and it appeared as if they would continue scoring at the same pace after the break as Gay pulled Helm disdainfully through midwicket.

Scoring slowed significantly though, with just 24 runs coming in the first hour of the afternoon. Procter grew becalmed in the forties, eventually posting his half-century off 126 balls.

As Middlesex banged the ball in short, Roland-Jones struck Procter under the armpit, but otherwise the Northamptonshire captain was largely happy to duck out of the way. Gay took a more attacking approach, his pull shots were mostly well controlled, although at times he kept the leg-side fielders interested.

The scoring rate increased as tea approached, Procter taking full advantage of a full toss from de Caires, smiting it over midwicket for the first six of the innings.

Gay then reached three figures in style by rocking back and slashing Higgins through point for his ninth boundary.

After the interval, Procter put another de Caires full toss away to the ropes, but when he attacked the spinner’s next over, he could only pick out Helm at mid on to leave Northamptonshire on 190 for two. He had faced 194 balls and hit six fours and one six.

Karun Nair cut de Caires behind square for four but was troubled by a couple of well-directed short balls from Helm, fending one away which fell safely between a group of advancing close catchers. But he found the sweep and reverse sweep profitable as he took consecutive boundaries off de Caires and soon settled into the groove.

Gay meanwhile continued on his way, backing away to slice Helm through the covers and using his feet to de Caires to drive him through the same area.

With Northamptonshire approaching 250, Middlesex took the new ball. Ethan Bamber and Roland-Jones found helpful movement off the seam, but Gay looked untroubled, playing an exquisite shot off his legs and a glorious cover drive shortly before stumps.

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Fri 12 April
Vitality County Championship - Division 2
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Start Time: 11:00
Duration: 4 days

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Middlesex Middlesex

Match Drawn
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