County edge ahead on truncated day

Muhammad Azharullah was making his first-class debut for the County against Hampshire
Muhammad Azharullah was making his first-class debut for the County against Hampshire

Northamptonshire had marginally the better of the first day against Hampshire at the County Ground.

Coming on the back of their morale-enhancing twin limited overs successes, a clash with one of the stronger sides in the division promised much and, for the most part, delivered on a stop-start kind of a day.

Reduced to a three-day contest due to the first day being washed out, the County, who awarded a competitive debut to Muhammad Azharullah, worked their way through half of the visitors’ order as they closed on 149-5 and if victory will be hard to come by in the limited time available, they are at least in a position from where they can dictate proceedings.

If a fresh pitch has been under cover for the best part of 48 hours then the sensible decision is generally to have a bowl and see what happens.

Add to the mix an opponent who come September will fancy their chances of being in the promotion shake-up, an opinion shared by the hosts after a strong opening few weeks, and a day lost to the elements and it’s the obvious thing to do.

This was reinforced by how the slightly shortened first session panned out with Hampshire going into their lunch on a sickly looking 30-2 after an attritional 24 overs.

Such a modest scoring rate can be attributed to very accurate bowling - Trent Copeland again exceptional - and batsmen for whom survival was the primary objective.

Jimmy Adams falling in the first over, neatly taken off an inside edge by David Murphy off David Willey, hardly helped their cause, neither did Michael Carberry edging Copeland to second slip before the score had reached 20.

When James Vince was adjudged lbw to the Australian early in the afternoon period, and he may be getting a reprimand after visibly displaying annoyance with the decision from umpire Mark Benson, the scoreboard read 44-3 and Alex Wakely’s choice had been vindicated.

The obdurate Liam Dawson and the more free-flowing Sean Ervine stabilised the innings to some degree with Ervine’s first boundary in the 29th over only the second of the day.

A more straightforward leg before adjudication saw the Zimbabwean depart with no complaints and this heralded the liveliest passage of play as Copeland and Adam Wheater collided.

The diminutive wicket-keeper goes about his batting in a skittish, cat on a hot tin roof style and his dispatching of two deliveries, one through and the other over midwicket, riled the New South Welshman to the extent that, when Dawson flicked him through the leg-side for another boundary in his next over, as the following delivery was pushed back to him he hurled it to Murphy and close enough to the batsman in a manner that forced the umpires to tell him quite rightly to calm down.

But Copeland will have felt vindicated when Wheater squandered his hard work 10 short of a half-century as he had his stumps rattled while attempting what can only be described as an awful shot.

While all of this was taking place, Dawson was coolly and unremarkably grinding away at the other end and his determined approach was exactly what the situation required.

Solid in defence and picking off what little loose stuff was offered, the number three, who didn’t attempt to break free at any stage, needed 165 balls to reach a deserved 50.