Middlebrook and Brooks continue dominance
Gloucestershire 172 for 7 v Northamptonshire 557 for 9 dec
James Middlebrook hit 109 - his highest score for Northamptonshire - as the visitors established an iron grip on the County Championship Division Two clash with Gloucestershire at Bristol. Middlebrook and Niall O'Brien, who extended his overnight score of 123 to 166, took their seventh-wicket stand to 187 before being parted, and helped their team to a massive first-innings score of 557 for 9 declared.
By the close of the second day, Gloucestershire had replied with 172 for 7, having been 31 for 5 at one stage after Jack Brooks (4 for 30) took three wickets in the space of seven balls. Chris Taylor (54) and Will Gidman (72 not out) led a spirited recovery with a stand of 115 but the hosts trailed by 385 runs with just three wickets remaining.
Northamptonshire began the day on 381 for 6, having been in trouble themselves at 125 for 5, and were soon piling on the agony for a largely-inexperienced home attack. From his overnight score of 24, Middlebrook moved confidently to a half-century off 88 balls, with eight fours.
O'Brien was dropped on 147 by David Payne at long-off as he skied a delivery from Kane Williamson, but otherwise the pair made untroubled progress. O'Brien finally perished shortly before lunch, 10 short of his career-best score, top-edging a pull shot off 16-year-old seamer Craig Miles and being caught at fine leg by Jon Lewis. He had batted for more than five hours, facing 206 balls and hitting 20 fours and a six.
Middlebrook went on to reach three figures off 184 balls, with 12 fours, finding more solid support from David Lucas, who finished on 34 not out. The centurion fell to a catch at mid-off, driving at the off-spin of Taylor and Lee Daggett's second-ball duck brought the declaration.
Gloucestershire's batting problems began when Ian Cockbain was bowled shouldering arms to Lucas with the score on 15. Without addition and in the same over, Williamson fell for a duck, caught in the slips by David Sales.
Brooks then accounted for Richard Coughtrie, Alex Gidman and Jon Batty in rapid succession as the home side's top order was blown away. But Taylor and Will Gidman were in no mood to surrender meekly. They took the score to 61 for 5 at tea and then counter-attacked with relish as the ball went soft.
Taylor was first to his fifty off 78 balls, with eight fours, and Gidman's statistics were similar when he got to his half-century off 80 deliveries, also with eight boundaries.
It was 146 for 6 when Taylor was caught behind cutting with no foot movement and Brooks struck again to remove Ian Saxelby, leaving Gidman defiant, but with only the tail to bat in the morning.