Hall gives County the upper hand

Rob Newton made 81 in Northants' first innings
Rob Newton made 81 in Northants' first innings

Northamptonshire assumed control of proceedings on day two of the County Championship clash with neighbours Leicestershire.

A century from Andrew Hall and good contributions from Rob Newton and David Willey made the Foxes’ decision to bowl first look, with the benefit of hindsight, like an error of judgement.

That they were still in the field after tea was as good an indication as any that things had gone awry and they will still have to bat well to avoid coming second despite closing on 89-1.

If the play that was possible on the first day was attritional, the first session of the second was anything but. In fact, the opening hour was at the opposite end of the spectrum.

The visiting seamers had been pretty much on the money when they reduced the hosts to 63-4 but their discipline was nowhere to be seen as they leaked runs straight from the off.

Newton was the chief recipient as his cut shot, a definite strength, was repeatedly fed as the Foxes’ previous good work was squandered.

Admittedly, there wasn’t as much movement available due to a combination of an older ball and a drier surface but short and wide bowling is short and wide bowling whatever the conditions.

Both Newton and Hall cantered along in little difficulty and it took the introduction of off-spinner Jigar Naik to slow the scoring rate down without really looking like breaking through.

That changed shortly after the lunch interval when Newton, who had only added a single to his lunchtime total, steered Naik to Ramnaresh Sarwan at slip while attempting to take advantage of the vacant cover point region.

Rob Keogh looked comfortable enough until he played back to Naik and was hit in front by one that scuttled through and Ben Duckett, on his first-class debut, edged a loose drive at Ollie Freckingham and was caught at first slip.

But for all their top order difficulties, no such problem exists with the tail and David Willey’s arrival, just as the visitors were regaining a foothold in the contest, once again took it out of their reach.

With licence to play his shots, in fact I don’t think his method would change wherever he batted, Willey is a dangerous customer at number nine and he was quickly into his stride, his approach allowing Hall to cruise along at his own pace and the South African’s century - his 13th in total and first for two years - was well deserved.

An acceleration of sorts after tea saw a fourth batting point secured and Willey reach his career best of 77 with the three wickets to fall - Hall and Crook falling in the same over - all going to the persevering Freckingham who claimed a maiden five-wicket haul in the total of 355.

Leicestershire’s reply opened with a flurry of boundaries courtesy of Greg Smith and County old boy Niall O’Brien but the latter was badly missed by Ben Duckett behind the wicket off Trent Copeland before he had reached double figures.

The Irishman’s innings was a skittish affair mixing nicely timed drives with unnecessary wafts and one of the latter brought about his downfall at the hands of Copeland.

Smith, joined by Ned Eckersley, survived until the close with no problems and their first aim come tomorrow morning will be to get past the follow-on mark of 205.