If the opening day of the season was a very welcome start to a new campaign for Northamptonshire, the second day was the stuff of pre-season dreams as they totally dominated Middlesex, the 2016 county champions. Having piled up 445, Northants reduced Middlesex to 134 for 7 before bad light ended the day 14 overs early.
Having overcome one bad habit of not being able to bat for long periods and build a score on day one, Northamptonshire overcame another by backing up one good day with another. When Jason Holder fell in the sixth over of the morning, a Middlesex fightback looked possible but Luke Procter and Luke Wood ensured the advantage was pressed home, sharing 53 for the eighth wicket.
Their stand earned Northants a fourth batting point. It took five matches for Northants to reach the same tally last season.
Procter worked the bowling around with ease to pass fifty in 111 balls, before taking a liberty or two with the tail – lifting Steven Finn over deep square for six and cleverly turning Tim Murtagh backward of square for boundaries – in making an unbeaten 81, the highest score of the innings.
Northants’ total was built with several healthy partnerships, the last of which, a 71 stand for the tenth wicket between Procter and Ben Sanderson, a sickener for Middlesex as a solid total became a commanding score.
With the luxury of scoreboard pressure, the home attack bowled with persistence to chip away at the Middlesex order. After a 39-run opening stand, Holder made the breakthrough having Nick Gubbins caught at first slip before Sam Robson went to cut and edged behind. In between, Nathan Buck produced a delivery that lifted from a length to find Stevie Eskinazi’s edge and with three wickets by tea, Northants had won a fifth session in succession.
After tea, the home side took complete control of the game. Dawid Malan fell in the second over the session, caught at the wicket off Luke Wood – a first wicket for the on-loan Nottinghamshire left-armer. Wood’s second wicket saw Max Holden, who rescued Middlesex in the second innings of this fixture last season, mistime a pull to square leg.
Eoin Morgan, England’s one-day captain, never settled with various inside and outside edges before Buck finally drew an edge that taken by Adam Rossington and when Sanderson took his first wicket – John Simpson held well, down low by Holder at second slip – Northants were pondering asking Middlesex to follow-on for the second season in a row.
Northamptonshire 445 (Procter 81*, Wakely 76, Rossington 67)
Middlesex 134/7 (Wood 2/26, Holder 2/27)
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