Northamptonshire v Middlesex, Northampton, 1st day August 23, 2011

Newton fifty gives Northants the edge

Northamptonshire 145 for 3 v Middlesex

Rob Newton struck a half-century to give Northamptonshire the edge on day one of their top-of-the-table County Championship Division Two clash against Middlesex at Wantage Road.

Poor weather delayed the start for over three hours, and then Newton made 66 from 104 balls including eight fours as leaders Northamptonshire closed on 145 for 3. The home team's former player Steven Crook took two wickets for Middlesex, and Northamptonshire could have lost further wickets if it had not been for two catches being taken off no-balls delivered by Toby Roland-Jones.

Middlesex won the toss and chose to field but persistent rain in the morning forced the start to be delayed until 2.20pm, meaning 34 overs were lost. The visitors approached the vital match 22 points behind their opponents in the table and 22 ahead of Gloucestershire, but with a game in hand on both.

And they struck early as Tim Murtagh took his 64th County Championship wicket of the season in the third over when he forced Stephen Peters, on eight, to edge to Middlesex wicketkeeper Josh Simpson. Ollie Rayner then took a fantastic one-handed catch to his right at second slip after a drive by Kyle Coetzer, who was on 12 at the time, only to find out Roland-Jones had over-stepped.

Scotland international Coetzer, making his home debut, made it to 22 before he was again caught by Rayner at second slip, this time off a legitimate delivery by Crook. Alex Wakely was to only make 14 before throwing his wicket away by chipping a fairly innocuous ball from Crook straight to Middlesex captain Chris Rogers at extra cover.

Newton then survived a scare on 38 when he was caught by Rogers at mid-off off another Roland-Jones no-ball as Northamptonshire made it to tea on 113 for 3. A few minutes after the players came off, rain began to fall again but it stopped before the players were due to come out again.

Newton completed a half-century from the first ball of the evening by pulling Rayner for four through square leg. After a single over had been bowled, the rain returned to cause a further delay. Once it abated, Newton returned to comfortably see out the day, with David Sales at the other end also surviving the fading light to reach 26 not out.