Teenager frustrates County with maiden century

Mohammad Azharullah took five wickets for Northamptonshire
Mohammad Azharullah took five wickets for Northamptonshire
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Teenager Matt Critchley made history in only his second first-class game when he became the youngest Derbyshire player to score a century on a memorable opening day of the Division Two LV County Championship match against Northants at Derby.

The 18-year-old leg-spinner from Chorley came in with his side in trouble at 103 for 6 with South African Test captain Hashim Amla falling for one on his Derbyshire debut to fellow countryman Rory Kleinveldt.

But Critchley launched a thrilling counter attack which took him to a hundred containing 11 fours and two sixes off 141 balls and with Tom Taylor shared a Derbyshire record eighth wicket stand against Northants of 162 that put the home side in charge before Azharullah wrapped up the innings to finish with 5 for 59.

Critchley was unbeaten on 137 from 179 balls out of 343 and Northants played out a maiden over from Mark Footitt before the close.

The visitors decision to put the home side in after winning the toss for the first time this season had backfired but it had looked questionable in the morning when Derbyshire’s openers took advantage of some inconsistent bowling.

Ben Slater and Chesney Hughes added 65 from 18 overs as Kleinveldt and David Willey struggled with their line but Azharullah shifted the balance by removing them both in the space of three overs.

Slater pushed at one that left him to be caught behind for 37 and Hughes, who was dropped at second slip off Azharullah on 13, was bowled playing no shot.

Amla’s innings lasted only seven balls before he was trapped on the crease by Kleinveldt and Northants appeared to have taken control when Steven Crook had Shiv Thakor caught behind and Harvey Hosein pouched at first slip off consecutive balls after lunch.

But the rest of the day belonged to Critchley who batted positively to put Derbyshire firmly back in the game although Northants did not help their cause when Alex Wakely dropped him at second slip when he was on 20.

It was a costly miss as the youngster played with confidence and maturity way beyond his years, pulling Crook over long leg for six on his way to fifty from 67 balls.

Taylor also displayed his batting credentials as the pair recorded the highest ever eighth wicket stand in the history of games between the two counties before Critchley brought up his hundred in style by pulling Josh Cobb for his second six and was sportingly applauded by all the Northants players.

Kleinveldt finally broke through with the second new ball when Taylor was caught behind for a career-best 49 and Azharullah mopped up but Critchley had changed the day and he said: “I only found out two minutes ago (he was the youngest centurion) and had no idea when i was batting.

“I’m very proud although it’s not really sunk in yet. I tried to play nice and positive, there were a few nerves but I just tried to back the way I play and go for my shots and it came off.

“The umpires kept telling me, ‘remember this day’ and if anything ever goes wrong, go back to this.”

Derbyshire skipper Wayne Madsen said: “It was an incredible innings, he played fearless cricket. As a youngster playing his second game for us, he came out and showed the exuberance of youth and batted brilliantly.

“He played strong shots and really took the game away from them after we were in a lot of trouble. It’s an incredible feat and he’s just buzzing at the moment.”

Azharullah admitted: “They (Critchley and Taylor) both batted really well and the dropped catches didn’t help as well. We were in good shape early on but we bowled a bit too short in the afternoon and in the first hour as well. That’s not the first time, we did at Leicester this season as well so we need to work on that.”