Fill-in Middlebrook fills his boots
Northamptonshire 302 for 4 (Middlebrook 121, Coetzer 81*) v Gloucestershire
Stand-in opener James Middlebrook scored a magnificent century as Northamptonshire dominated the opening day of their match against Gloucestershire at Wantage Road. Middlebrook, who moved up the order in place of the injured Rob Newton, struck a superb 121 off 204 balls, as Northants closed in a strong position.
Scotland international Kyle Coetzer finished unbeaten on 81 from 211 deliveries, with Gloucestershire's bowlers toiling away in the heat as the hosts piled on the runs. Northants won the toss and chose to bat in gloriously sunny conditions and Stephen Peters and Middlebrook took full advantage by making 79 between them for the opening wicket.
Peters made a composed 44 before he was sent packing four overs before lunch when Ian Saxelby's delivery clattered into his stumps. The hosts resumed after lunch on 85 for 1 and Middlebrook went on to complete his half-century with a four through mid-wicket off Will Gidman.
The veteran piled on another 134 runs for the second wicket along with Coetzer as the hosts looked set to build a big score. Middlebrook went on to complete the eighth century of his first-class career, and his fourth for Northants, by crashing a poor Ed Young delivery through square leg for four.
Middlebrook's innings finally ended in the eighth over of the evening session, when he chipped Gloucestershire captain Alex Gidman to former New Zealand international Hamish Marshall at extra-cover. This meant he fell just six runs short of his career-best score of 127, made for Essex against Middlesex at Lord's in June 2007.
Gloucestershire's beleaguered attack unsurprisingly immediately took the second new ball when it became available after 80 overs. The decision paid off three overs later when David Sales was well caught by Ian Cockbain at point off the bowling of Will Gidman and the visitors managed to claim one more wicket with the final ball of the day, when Alex Wakely played the same bowler on to his stumps.