Northamptonshire will be especially pleased to have Trent Copeland back in their ranks if day one of the LV= County Championship clash with Gloucestershire is anything to go by.
The Australian returns to the County for the next three four-day games, starting with the trip to Colchester to face Essex later this month, and his presence is needed in a side whose bowling attack needs some assistance.
When Copeland returned home after the 10-wicket defeat of Worcestershire in early June, they led the Division Two standings by 44 points but have failed to win since, seen Lancashire overtake them and the rest of the field tighten up.
It isn’t time to panic by any means but the below average fare served up for the majority of the day against Michael Klinger’s side wasn’t that of a promotion-chasing outfit.
David Willey was good with the new ball first thing and Andrew Hall did his usual consistent job but other than that there wasn’t much to talk about until late in the day when the second new ball did some damage.
Just two maidens in the first two sessions was indicative of the looseness of the bowling with Steven Crook particularly profligate and while the pitch was flat with no real pace or bounce, there were far too many boundary balls offered and, as a result, no pressure created on a consistent basis which is the very thing Copeland excels at.
But while the home side weren’t at their best, that shouldn’t detract from the efforts of the visitors’ line-up.
With Hamish Marshall leading the way with an outstanding 145, his fourth century of the year and his third in five innings, they scored fluently all day and should be disappointed that they didn’t rack up even more.
That said, when Willey had Chris Dent caught behind and Gareth Roderick lbw playing no shot, the scoreboard read 9-2 and being asked to bowl didn’t look to be too big a deal.
Michael Klinger and Alex Gidman started the rebuilding and both looked in good touch until Hall got rid of them both, the former edging behind and the latter, following a run-a-ball half century, slapping straight to cover point.
That left the stage free for Marshall, and Benny Howell to a lesser degree, who barely put a foot wrong during his 221-minute stay. Strong on the cut and pull, the New Zealander was given ample opportunity to display his strengths and it was something of a surprise when he was strangled down the leg-side off Muhammad Azharullah.
Howell had departed not too long before for a season’s best 60 when he hit a Hall half-tracker to deep square-leg and Marshall’s dismissal sparked a change in momentum as Willey and Azharullah made inroads.
James Fuller had his stumps shattered by the left-armer, Will Gidman dragged an attempted pull onto his stumps and Craig Miles was trapped on the crease, both to the Pakistani, and Crook put a positive number in his wicket tally by taking the final wicket in the shape of Tom Smith.
A total of 358 was a good few short of what it should have been and the County got out of jail to some extent and now they have to make use of their good fortune by ensuring at least first innings parity.