Fourth straight defeat staring Northants in the face

Matt Spriegel fell in the final over of the day as Northants struggled in their second innings
Matt Spriegel fell in the final over of the day as Northants struggled in their second innings

It never rains but it does indeed pour.

Fresh from an innings hammering at Trent Bridge last week, Northamptonshire are heading inexorably towards another demoralising reverse, which would be their fourth on the bounce, at the hands of Middlesex.

It will take the intervention of Mother Nature or a significant upturn in their batting fortunes for the County to get out of this particular sticky situation after another chastening day at the office.

After watching the visitors initially grind, then latterly flay, their way towards a mammoth 260-run advantage, the flakiness of the top order then surfaced yet again as the new ball, as is so often the case, made inroads.

Watching the County negotiating the first division so far this season has reminded this writer of his first attempts at learning French.

The student was willing but what was presented was bordering on the unfathomable and any sort of progress was negligible.

Unfortunately, the language in question remained bemusing and unless something drastic happens, the lessons in this instance will continue to be of the same vein.

The batting side of things has been the Achilles heel and still is but the bowling is showing worrying signs of being dragged in the same direction.

Last week, a lack of incisiveness was ruthlessly exposed and the same happened here, especially after the lunch interval.

Starting the day at 262-3, Neil Dexter and Joe Denly didn’t look in any trouble as they saw off the second new ball first thing before upping the tempo just a fraction.

The former reached three figures from the final ball of the session and the latter, who hadn’t made double figures this season prior to yesterday afternoon, gave no indication of his lack of form as he played the supporting role.

Denly’s stint concluded in the second over of the afternoon as he edged Andrew Hall to slip but rather than open the gates for the bowling side to exploit, it had the opposite effect of paving the way for a late assault.

Once John Simpson had been run out, Stephen Peters hitting directly from midwicket, and Ollie Rayner remarkably caught one-handed by Maurice Chambers at mid-off, Toby Roland-Jones, with the County on the floor, administered the kicking.

The number eight clubbed a 25-ball 50 as he and Dexter added 94 in less than eight overs with James Middlebrook and Chambers taking the punishment.

Dexter played his part as he passed his career best of 146 to finish undefeated with 163 and when the innings concluded, an uphill task loomed for the hosts.

If Middlesex’s innings represented the raining, the reply was the pouring.

As so often happens, a long stint in the field precedes early wickets and so it came to pass as Middlebrook played on first ball to Tim Murtagh and Stephen Peters located first slip off Roland-Jones.

David Sales looked in good touch before one kept low and defeated an attempted pull shot, Roland-Jones again the bowler, and in the final over of the day, Matt Spriegel was caught at slip, via his boot, from Denly’s very part-time leg-spin.

And the final equation reads as follows - a deficit of 172 with Rob Newton the not out batsman and six wickets remaining.

Grim at best and given the form book, I know where my money would be placed.