Newton century is a sign of improvement

It’s tricky to know exactly what kind of day this was for Northamptonshire.

By Alec Swann
Sunday, 15th June 2014, 6:19 pm
James Middlebrook chats with Richard Levi (don't mind the shirt) during Northants' first innings
James Middlebrook chats with Richard Levi (don't mind the shirt) during Northants' first innings

A closing score of 297-8 on day one of the LV= County Championship fixture against Warwickshire isn’t earth shattering by any stretch of the imagination but it needs to be placed in some context.

Having served up too many rash and ill-disciplined efforts with the bat since rejoining the top flight, at last some of their number got their head down and showed what could be achieved.

Against a good attack on a surface that appeared quicker and bouncier than what is the norm at the County Ground, the hosts recovered from a deja vu inducing 141-6 thanks to Rob Newton and Andrew Hall who added 129 for the seventh wicket.

Northants v Warwickshire at County Ground, Wantage Road, Northampton. NNL-140615-135130006

And it was a return to good, old-fashioned batting values that served the pair well.

Eliminating risk, playing straight, not trying anything too fancy and leaving what couldn’t be hit really does work, as has been shown all too often by the opposition, and while it may be premature to announce that a turnaround in fortunes has arrived, at least the penny is starting on its downward trend.

Both Newton and Hall have been caught up in the general malaise that has enveloped the County this year, as indicated by the fact the latter reached his highest score of the season when he exceeded 28 and the former passed 50 for the first time.

Such statistics may cause some surprise, and so they should, because they don’t do any kind of justice to decent players but a recovery has to start somewhere and this was at least a bit more like it.

Northants v Warwickshire at County Ground, Wantage Road, Northampton. NNL-140615-135152006

Newton made the most of such a promising beginning as half was turned confidently into full with his century - the first to be made for the County in seven first division games - just reward for a disciplined and well-constructed stint.

Given what had gone on in the initial 40 overs of the day, this was precisely what was required.

Having won the toss and chosen to have first go, the fall of six cheap wickets had threatened to derail yet another four-day outing.

After Stephen Peters had been trapped on the crease by the slippery Chris Woakes, James Middlebrook and Rob Keogh had fallen in the space of four Rikki Clarke deliveries, respectively caught behind from one that bounced and bowled emphatically.

Northants v Warwickshire at County Ground, Wantage Road, Northampton. NNL-140615-134942009

Richard Levi, making his Championship debut and looking assured right from the off, and Matt Spriegel played soundly until the left-hander walked in front to Chris Wright and the South African edged a good one from Woakes to Tim Ambrose..

Ben Duckett didn’t stay around too long as he located slip in Jeetan Patel’s second over and the off-spinner only conceded two runs in his first 11 overs to slow things down, yet Newton and Hall weathered the drip, drip from and slowly prospered as they became entrenched.

Their collaboration blossomed to such an extent that they recorded the highest partnership for the County this summer, and only the second of three figures, and it was an achievement of sorts that they forced the second new ball to be taken.

The aforementioned accounted for Hall as Woakes located his off stump and Steven Crook wafted carelessly at Wright prior to Newton pulling Wright to the fence to reach his hundred.

And that was it as bad light brought a slightly premature end to precedings with the scoreboard showing a total three short of another batting point.

So while the day can’t be put in the brilliant category, it was certainly an improvement on what has gone before.