A team containing Curtly Ambrose, Allan Lamb, David Capel, Wayne Larkins, the current first team coach David Ripley and Nick Cook, one of the umpires here, won by an innings on the back of double hundreds by Lamb and Alan Fordham, the latter now head of cricket operations at the England and Wales Cricket Board.
A pretty useful team, in other words, as opposed to what might respectfully be called the workmanlike unit of present vintage. It is one that nevertheless hopes to follow in its predecessors’ footsteps by seizing an opportunity to make what Ripley said prior to this game was a statement against a strong Yorkshire side expected to finish in the top two of Championship Group Three.
To that effect, Northants would have been both disappointed and pleased with their work on day two: disappointed that a disastrous sequence of 4-5 in 26 balls sent them crashing to 81-5 in reply to Yorkshire’s first innings 206; pleased that they recovered to 234 all out before Yorkshire reached stumps at 43-3, just 15 ahead.
Ditto Yorkshire, by definition, in exact reverse, although they arguably ended the day in not a significantly worse position than they started it, when Northants had resumed on 36-0 eyeing a potentially substantial first innings lead.
But this has not been a game in which batsmen have flourished.
In conditions that have tested technique against the red ball, a flashback to the Headingley of yore when the skies were always cloudy and the ball was always moving, the weaknesses in both top-orders have been laid bare, which is partly why it has been an interesting if not yet a memorable match in terms of collective quality and individual contributions.
If anything unforgettable does emerge in the game’s second half, it is perhaps likeliest to come in terms of the finish, given that the contest could still go either way.
Yorkshire, pound for pound, are the better side, but they have not yet looked it save for when Steve Patterson, their captain, and Jordan Thompson, the all-rounder, inspired the morning collapse which had threatened to leave Northants well short on first innings before they recovered to carve out a slender advantage.
After the visitors resumed in cold and cloudy conditions and to the backdrop of a house or car alarm that did not desist until the afternoon session, the total had risen to 76-1 when the mini-collapse started.
First, Thompson had Charlie Thornton edging to Adam Lyth at second slip, then Patterson – having earlier had Ben Curran steering to Harry Brook at third – sent back Ricardo Vasconcelos, the Northants captain, caught low down at first slip by Tom Kohler-Cadmore.
Patterson and Kohler-Cadmore combined again to account for Rob Keogh, and then Thompson had Luke Procter superbly caught at third by Brook, who took the ball low to his right one-handed.
As well as Patterson, in particular, and Thompson bowled, the slip catching that supported them should not go unrecognised. It was especially commendable given the conditions, with hand warmers as essential as cricketing whites, and there are few better slip catching “teams” in county cricket than Kohler-Cadmore, Lyth and Brook.
At 81-5, with the ball doing plenty and the skies blanket grey, Yorkshire looked a good bet to wrap up the innings for under 150, but Saif Zaib (55) and Tom Taylor (50) had other thoughts.
The sixth-wicket pair put the match’s top-order failings into perspective, adding 92, the highest partnership of it to date, through a combination of resolute defence and judicious aggression, particularly when they upped the ante against the old ball.
Zaib, a diminutive 22-year-old left-hander, achieved the rare distinction of taking successive boundaries off Patterson, whose opening spell was a splendid 9-5-17-3. Zaib pulled him to the boundary and then square-drove him to the foot of the West Stand, while he also used his feet intelligently to loft off-spinner Dom Bess to the cover boundary on the East Stand side.
Taylor, a tall 26-year-old right-hander, also used his feet nicely, as when lofting Bess for four over mid-on. It took a rash shot from Zaib to end the stand, the batsman losing his middle stump to David Willey to give Yorkshire their solitary success of the afternoon session.
Bess bowled Taylor shortly after tea, summoning a fine delivery that slipped past the outside edge as the batsman pushed forward, just before Northants took the lead.
Willey got rid of Wayne Parnell and Simon Kerrigan with the second new ball, aided and abetted by the slip catching team, and Thompson had last man Ben Sanderson caught behind, who then inflicted the same fate on Kohler-Cadmore. Parnell pinned Will Fraine lbw before Lyth was taken in the cordon.
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