Warwickshire recorded their third successive Specsavers County Championship victory by beating Northamptonshire by six wickets on the third day at Edgbaston.
Facing a victory target of 179, no formality on a pitch offering some variable bounce, the home side were reduced to 44 for three by an excellent pre-lunch burst of 7.3-2-9-3 by Ben Sanderson.
But opener Will Rhodes stayed firm to lodge his maiden first-class century against a Northamptonshire attack already missing the injured Richard Gleeson and further deprived of Steven Crook, off the field with a hamstring injury.
Rhodes ended with an unbeaten 100 (165 balls, 13 fours, one six) to see his team over the line with four sessions to spare.
Warwickshire’s win cemented their place at the top of Division One and leaves them well-placed to challenge hard for promotion straight back up.
Northamptonshire’s promotion ambitions have been hammered by a haul of just 15 points from their first four games. They could use some better luck on the injury front, but also need their batsmen, too many of whom perished on the offensive in this match, to give their impressive bowling attack something to work with.
Trailing by nine runs on first innings, Northamptonshire resumed on the third morning on 160 for seven and added only another 27 as Olly Stone completed a five-for against his former team-mates.
Doug Bracewell left a ball too late and feathered Stone to wicketkeeper Tim Ambrose, Chris Wright knocked out Brett Hutton’s off-stump and Rob Keogh (29, 58 balls, three fours) pulled Stone to long leg and fell to a fine catch by Henry Brookes right on the boundary.
Stone finished with five for 49, taking his wicket-haul in the last three championship innings to 15 at 12.4 runs apiece.
Northamptonshire needed to strike early and did through Sanderson whose fifth ball was chipped to square leg by Dominic Sibley. Rhodes and Ian Bell added 36 in 12 overs but then Sanderson struck two big blows. Bell was pinned lbw by an excellent delivery and Trott fell in similar fashion on the stroke of lunch to send Northants into the interval scenting their first victory of the season.
That scent faded as Rhodes and Sam Hain added 50 in 16 overs. Hain latter edged Luke Proctor to Ben Hutton at slip but Matt Lamb (23 not out, 62 balls, three fours) provided Rhodes with staunch support in an unbroken stand of 86 in 22 overs.
Warwickshire captain Jeetan Patel said:
“This game was another case of contributions from all of us on a tough wicket and the efforts that we all put in. I’m really happy for the players.
“The guys who have got rewards in this game are Rhodes and Stone and Brookes but the reality is we have all done a lot to get this win. Three wins from our first four championship games – I couldn’t be happier.
“We did it well today. It was important to take their last three wickets early this morning and we did that to leave us 179 to win. At 44 for three, that’s not easy but then the way Rhodesy played showed why we signed him. He is a seriously talented player and has lot to offer the club and he played superbly to get us over the line.”
Northamptonshire head coach David Ripley said:
“For a long time it was a very even game and at lunchtime today it was really in the balance after we took those two key wickets just before lunch. I thought it was going to the wire but Will Rhodes played really well under pressure. To get a hundred with your team under pressure on a wearing pitch showed good skill and determination and he was the difference.
“Steven Crook was injured but we were never going to be in the field for 100 overs, so I don’t think that was a particularly deciding factor factor. I thought Rob Keogh might come into the game as a spinner. We had enough out there to be competitive. We just have to hope the injury is nothing too serious for Steve so he doesn’t miss too much cricket.
“We won nine championship matches last year and have the same squad so we know we are a better side than the league table shows at the moment but it’s a tough division and if you don’t play well you are going to get beaten. At the moment, particularly batting, we are proving to be brittle. We only have three championship fifties and no hundreds – we have got to improve that to be competitive and stay in games for longer.”