Top v bottom made for engrossing fare at Edgbaston where Warwickshire closed the opening day of their Specsavers County Championship match on 100 for four in reply to Northamptonshire’s 256.
When the visitors, having chosen to bat, plummeted to 102 for seven, it appeared that Division Two leaders Warwickshire were heading for total command.
But an eighth-wicket stand of 122 in 31 overs between Steven Crook (92, 104 balls, 15 fours) and Doug Bracewell (81, 134 balls, 11 fours, one six) kept their side in the game – and secured their first batting point of the season along the way.
Bracewell then quickly removed both Warwickshire openers and Northamptonshire, without key men Rob Newton (broken finger) and Richard Gleeson (elbow injury), showed their resilience to add the further wickets of Jonathan Trott and Sam Hain to totally even up a day which they had started so wretchedly.
Their morning of woe began with the 13th ball which Ben Duckett nicked behind off Chris Wright. Henry Brookes then delivered almost-unplayable outswingers which clipped Alex Wakeley’s off-stump and induced an edge from Richard Levi to slip.
At 29 for three, a daft run out was the last thing Northamptonshire needed but that’s what came along when Luke Procter attempted a second run to third man and was beaten by Brookes’ accurate throw.
Former Northants bowler Olly Stone struck with his first ball, which Adam Rossington edged behind, before Brookes trapped Rob Keogh lbw to leave the visitors 52 for six.
Crook and Josh Cobb (39, 34 balls) counter-attacked to add 50 in nine overs and, after the latter lifted Stone to point, Crook and Bracewell saw their side to their first batting point of 2018. Crook was eight short of a well-deserved century when he tickled a leg-side delivery from Jeetan Patel to wicketkeeper Tim Ambrose.
A superb catch by Ambrose, off Wright, removed Brett Hutton to leave last pair Bracewell and Ben Sanderson with 21 to find to acquire a second batting point. They managed that before Bracewell lofted Brookes to deep point to leave the 18-year-old with four for 54, having harvested career-best bowling figures for the third successive innings.
Bracewell then inflicted swift damage with the ball when he had openers Dominic Sibley and Will Rhodes snared in the slips from his fifth and 24th balls respectively. Hutton trapped Trott lbw in his first over and Hain was adjudged lbw, offering no shot, to Crook, leaving Warwickshire leaning heavily on the class of Ian Bell (55 not out, 76 balls, eight fours).
Warwickshire all-rounder Henry Brookes said:
“It was a good fun out there. I was given the new ball, which was nice, and just went out there and tried to back my skills and hit the stumps and it came off quite nicely. As a team we all tried to bowl full and straight and make the batsmen play early on.
“It seems like a bit of a new-ball pitch. In both innings, wickets have fallen with the new ball so it’s crucial to bowl nicely with that and try not to waste it, then try to back it up throughout the innings which we did pretty well.
“At a club like this there are a lot of bowlers around competing for places so you have to try to take the opportunity when it comes along and put performances in on the park. It has been a good start to the season for me and the coaches here are great, just keeping my feet on the ground and telling me to go out there and do what I do well.”
Northamptonshire all-rounder Steven Crook said:
“It was a chaotic start but we fought back really well, put a competitive total on the board then bowled nicely. I thought we were a bit unlucky not to have a few more wickets so if we come out tomorrow morning and bowl as well again hopefully we can put them under a lot of pressure.
“If you get the ball in the right areas it is tough to play. We probably weren’t at our absolute best with the bat in the first session but we fought back well and are well in this game.”