Compared to some of the contests between the two counties at New Road – the 1906 epic springs to mind, when Northamptonshire won after following on – their meetings at Northampton have been generally less memorable. But some of the club’s (and the game’s) all-time greats have still made their mark.
There’s even been a hint of controversy…
No such issues when the Pears made their first County Championship visit to Wantage Road in the 1906 return match. Set 259 to win, Northamptonshire looked dead-and-buried at 126-7 before the tail wagged – including a plucky last-wicket stand of 42 between debutant Tim Manning and veteran Charlie Smith – and Worcestershire eventually shaded it by just 21 runs.
It was rather less nip-and-tuck on their next trip here. The County, boosted by a double-century from durable opener ‘Dick’ Woolley, won by 356 runs – a record that stood until this season when Sussex were dispatched by 393 runs down at Hove.
George Tribe was inducted into Northamptonshire’s Hall of Fame last year for performances like the one against Worcestershire in the damp summer of 1958. The Australian wrist-spinner bagged 9-43 in the second innings as the visitors collapsed from 33-1 to 119 all out, losing inside two days – not good news for them, nor for County stalwart Dennis Brookes whose benefit match it was!
Northamptonshire prevailed on three successive occasions in the 1990s with Alan Fordham to the fore. After Rob Bailey’s unbeaten 95 did the job in a game of three declarations in 1991, ‘Forders’ hit 193 a couple of years later and then 126 to settle a run-chase in ’95 following a six-wicket haul for one of the club’s best-ever short-term signings, India’s Anil Kumble.
Graeme Swann and Jason Brown spun Northamptonshire to victory in 2000 when Matthew Hayden’s side won the Division Two title – but it was Worcestershire’s trophy in 2003 in the wake of a needle match at Wantage Road. Already promoted, the County needed 17 points to have a chance of finishing the summer as champions – but Worcestershire’s declaration 24 runs behind with eight wickets down meant they could only achieve 16. It prompted a war of words between rival coaches Kepler Wessels and Tom Moody about ‘the spirit of cricket’ – but to add insult to injury as far as Northamptonshire were concerned, the ECB then docked eight points for an unfit pitch after Brown and Monty Panesar had secured a 92-run victory.
On a happier note, Nicky Boje played an outstanding rearguard innings to save the match in 2008. Trailing by 232 on first innings, the South African all-rounder grafted through four sessions for 226 not out and an unexpected draw.
NORTHAMPTONSHIRE V WORCESTERSHIRE
WON BY NORTHAMPTONSHIRE: 39
WON BY WORCESTERSHIRE: 44
LAST TIME OUT….
Daryl Mitchell proved Worcestershire’s stand-out performer in their eight-wicket victory at Northampton in 2017. He scored 161 in their first innings and an undefeated 78 in the second, nullifying the efforts of Rob Keogh who battled his way to 88 not out to keep his side afloat.