Maiden first-class century for Willey puts County in full control

David Willey acknowledges the applause having reached his century. Pictures by Dave Ikin
David Willey acknowledges the applause having reached his century. Pictures by Dave Ikin
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David Willey’s maiden first-class century put Northamptonshire in full control of their LV= County Championship match with Gloucestershire after day three at Wantage Road.

Willey’s century and very important contributions from Rob Keogh, who battled hard for 81, and Josh Cobb, making 58, allowed Northants to recover from 100 for 5, a lead of just 137, to declare on 416 for 8 in the evening session.

Rob Keogh held together the Northamptonshire batting

Rob Keogh held together the Northamptonshire batting

Willey, the 25-year-old academy product, provided splendid entertainment after tea going to a century in just 79 balls with seven fours and six sixes to help set Gloucestershire a huge 454 to win.

The hitting was crisp and the ball sailed far and wide as Willey gave the latest reminder of his immense talent after a lean and injury-troubled 2014.

But back fit he swung the Gloucestershire attack around Wantage Road to add to his first-innings 62 and exploits with the ball on the second evening, as the visitors wilted on a warm spring day.

But Willey had Keogh and Cobb to thank for digging the hosts out of trouble. The pair batted with great caution and responsibility before accelerating in a partnership of 101 for the sixth wicket.

After lunch Cobb was the aggressor in taking the score from a precarious 138 for 5 at the break to 211 for 6 at which point he fell trying to lift Kieran Noema-Barnett over mid-off.

Keogh continued to be watchful and reached 19 runs short of a century when he was lbw to the part-time spin of Chris Dent. He peeled himself from the crease very disappointed at not gaining full reward for his efforts.

There was no century for Keogh but Willey found another willing partner in South African overseas player Rory Kleinveldt.

He was equally as willing to play strokes and made 48 in 52 balls with nine fours, despite being dropped twice - missed chances from Gloucestershire was another feature of the day.

After tea, with the lead extended over 320, Willey took full licence to play his strokes and lifted Dent for two sixes over the leg side.

But recognising he was approaching a major milestone, became becalmed in the 90s before edging Matt Taylor fine of third man to raise three figures.

The day looked very different when Gloucestershire took three wickets in the opening hour to reduce the hosts to 100 for 5.

Rob Newton was first to go, having pulled the first boundary of the day, slapping James Fuller straight to point with a loose cut stroke.

Alex Wakely followed by mistiming an attempted clip to leg and presenting a straightforward caught and bowled chance to Liam Norwell.

Then Adam Rossington top-edged a pull which looped to point to give Norwell his second wicket. He gave Rossington a little send off.

Things should have got better for Gloucestershire when Cobb, on just two, edged a drive straight to Dent at second slip but the easy chance was dropped.

Later, Hamish Marshall also shelled a straightforward chance, off Dent, but with Keogh on 62 at the time the miss was largely inconsequential.

Gloucestershire were left with 15 overs to survive before the close and successfully negotiated a tricky period unscathed with Chris Dent playing several attractive drives to close 22 not out.