Wakely hit 76 and Adam Rossington (67) also passed the half-century mark as the County finished the first day of the Specsavers County Championship Division Two clash on 310 for six (96 overs).
New signing Jason Holder made a promising start to life at Northants as he finished the first day unbeaten on 36.
And Wakely said: “It’s a start but to start well was crucial and we couldn’t really have asked for a better day.
“One of the things we haven’t done in the last five years is just to bat time. We have’t got a hundred today but just to bat all day and give the bowlers a rest, is really pleasing.
“A lot of hard work has gone in over the winter, taking people out of their comfort zones and that showed today - people didn’t give it away.
“To sit in the dressing room at the end of the day and congratulate people, we have’t had that for a long time."
Tim Murtagh caused early problems for the County and eventually finished the first day with figures of four for 43.
And Murtagh said: “I think it’s a pretty good wicket for the first week of April.
"We had to work hard, we weren’t quite at our best but it could have gone differently - we dropped a catch and beat the bat quite a lot.
“We’ve got two guys who haven’t played a lot in the last 18 months so for them to get through 20-plus overs is quite a lot.
“We’ll all be better for the miles in our legs but we know what we need to do better."