Alex Wakely’s first LV= County Championship hundred since June 2010 was the highlight for Northamptonshire on a wicket-laden first day at Cheltenham.
For Gloucestershire, Liam Norwell continued his superb season with a return of six for 41 as they bowled out the County for 246 on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival, despite 104 from visiting captain Wakely.
Northants were put into bat by acting Gloucestershire skipper Ian Cockbain, who was in charge following the morning announcement that former England wicketkeeper Geraint Jones had decided to relinquish the captaincy and retire at the end of the season.
Pace bowler Norwell helped justify Cockbain’s decision with a devastating burst of five for 16 in seven overs either side of the lunch interval, which included having Ben Duckett caught at long leg for 53, and he has now taken 51 first-class wickets this summer at 21 apiece.
Northants hit back well with the ball in the closing 24 overs of the day as Gloucestershire were reduced to 82 for four.
Most captains opt to bat first when they win the toss on the fast-scoring College Ground, but Cockbain’s decision to insert the visitors was no doubt influenced by overcast conditions.
There was early reward when Stephen Peters departed to the second ball of the match, caught behind by Gareth Roderick off Craig Miles, but Duckett and Wakely batted with so few alarms in a second-wicket partnership of 90 that it looked as if Cockbain’s decision might backfire.
Duckett, fresh from scoring 134 and 88 in his previous County Championship game at Old Trafford, played particularly freely in advancing to a 59-ball half-century, with three of his ten boundaries taken from one James Fuller over, all driven through the covers.
Norwell sparked an astonishing turnaround in fortunes by tempting Duckett to hook a delivery to Howell at long leg and then having Rob Keogh taken by Chris Dent at first slip in the last over before lunch.
After the interval, Norwell accounted for Richard Levi, caught behind as he went looking for a third successive boundary, Adam Rossington, taken by Michael Klinger at first slip, and Josh Cobb, who was bowled as he pushed forward.
Wakely’s patient approach was repaid with a 128-ball half-century and he found good support from Steven Crook in a seventh-wicket partnership that realised 69 runs in 17 overs.
Crook had contributed 27 when he swept Jack Taylor’s off-spin to the square-leg boundary, where Benny Howell did well to catch the ball at the second attempt just inside the rope.
Wakely brought up his 216-ball century with a straight-driven boundary off Taylor, the 16th four of his innings, but he was dismissed in the last over before tea when an attempted pull against Fuller only resulted in a gloved catch to Klinger at slip.
Graeme White hit a straight six and four fours in a quickfire 24 before he drove a low catch to Marshall at extra cover off Howell.
Norwell wrapped up the innings, and completed his second six-wicket haul of the season, when Rory Kleinveldt top-edged a hook to Miles at long leg.
When Gloucestershire batted, Dent edged Olly Stone low to Kleinveldt at third slip to depart for a second-ball duck.
Will Tavare fell lbw to Kleinveldt as he pushed forward, and the burly South African paceman struck again when Klinger was caught behind by Rossington.
Marshall and Roderick rallied the innings with a stand of 41, which was broken in the 22nd over when Roderick missed a legside flick and was lbw to Crook for 23.