Northamptonshire v Essex, Wantage Road, 2nd day April 18, 2013

Crook and Copeland flay ragged Essex


Essex 94 for 2 and 183 trail Northamptonshire399 (Crook 88*, Napier 6-93) by 122 runs

The exasperation induced by the wagging tail is something Northamptonshire's opponents might become familiar with this season. Their last two wickets here added 228 at over six runs an over, transforming a position of parity into one of utter dominance.

Trent Copeland must have a case for being one of the best No. 11s in county cricket history. After averaging 31 for New South Wales in Sheffield Shield cricket last season, including scoring a century against Tasmania, Copeland arrived at Northants to be told he would be batting at eleven. "It certainly wasn't an easy conversation," he said.

Copeland made 70, using his reach effectively, especially in his powerful offside driving. He upheld a little of the batting heritage of St George's, his cricket club in Sydney and where Sir Donald Bradman used to play.

Not that the man above him will be happy to slide down the order anytime soon. Steven Crook made an unbeaten 88 full of crunching strokes, perhaps only denied a hundred by Copeland's misjudged hook which left Northants one run shy of a fifth batting point. Still, it was something they would not have imagined possible when Graham Napier's bustling opening spell accounted for three wickets, including Rob Newton to an aberrant swipe from the day's opening delivery.

David Willey also scored a high-class 76, equalling his career best. An exquisitely timed back-foot push for four through the covers, and a nonchalant pull for six, both marked Willey out as a batsman of considerable talent. When you add in his lively left-arm pace, he could well emulate his father Peter in playing for England. But there the similarities end: Peter was a dour right-handed batsman and offspinner.

In the circumstances wicketkeeper David Murphy, who made only made 2 before being trapped lbw by Napier, might well fear slipping below No. 9 which could already be considered a perilous position for a 21st century wicket-keeper.

For all the assurance with which the Northants lower order batted, they were aided by some Essex bowling of the ragtag variety. Tymal Mills continued his infuriating tendency to bowl short on legstump, and a spell of three overs to Crook and Willey was ravaged for 31. The attack - at least in David Masters' absence - was far too dependent upon Napier, although it was puzzling that Ravi Bopara only bowled three overs in the innings and Greg Smith (who batted in the allrounder's position of No. 7) none at all. Bowling Mills in tandem with Maurice Chambers appears to be a luxury James Foster cannot afford.

Sajid Mahmood could only bring more control to the attack, which is not a line often written. Mahmood has so far been consigned to the 2nd XI but, if he is not given a place in Essex's next game, he may wonder why he bothered moving counties.

Beginning their second innings an ominous 216 runs behind, Essex's openers seemed well-aware of the top-order's debt after their first innings shoddiness. They are an interesting pair of contrasts: Tom Westley, a potential future England player already with over 400 first-class runs this season, caresses the ball in a pleasing manner; Rob Quiney, a - probably - former Australian Test player, rather swats it.

They had added 77 in excellent batting conditions in between a shower (although Westley was badly dropped by Murphy on 14) before Westley's lackadaisical clip off Willey was smartly taken by Stephen Peters at midwicket. Copeland later claimed Ben Foakes to a rash offdrive, leaving Essex requiring attritional qualities worthy of their absent friend Alastair Cook if they are to avoid defeat.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • paul on April 19, 2013, 15:05 GMT

    The next match is not until Monday, 29th April . It is against Hants, so could well be even more tougher than this one that has just ended in an innings defeat. We will have to play 100% better. We will have Cook back, who hasn't exactly done it for Essex in the cc in recent times. They will have Wheater, out to prove something. For sure, Chambers and Mills have to be dropped, lets see if they can get plenty of wickets in a second eleven game, i have my doubts. Give the former Lancs guy a go along with mr reliable, Masters. Also, perhaps Mickeburgh instead of Foakes. It would also be nice if Bopara forgot about England and got some runs for Essex, for sure he will need a lot of 100's to get his place back, oh well that's my moan for the day, it's a sorry old start for Essex.

  • paul on April 19, 2013, 13:55 GMT

    What can one say, a soon to be thrashing by a team who were expected to finish near the bottom. I trust Grayson has plenty to say to all the players and perhaps the ones above Grayson will have something to say to him. i Grayson's brother got the sack from Leeds when his team performed badly. Well this has gone on for a number of years with Essex performing poorly. This is not football, but all the same, we have a bunch of so called talented cricketers who time again let themselves down. Surely something needs to change in due course. With due respect to Napier, he should not be out top batsman and top bowler, as he has been in this match.

  • Dummy4 on April 19, 2013, 11:47 GMT

    Thanks for comments. Essex haven't helped themselves at all in this game, with some very dubious shot selection. Looks like a third day defeat is likely - see

    @MattB1976 Some cracking stats there, thanks! May even borrow one of them!

  • Matthew on April 19, 2013, 9:42 GMT

    All the Northants players from the current match have a FC batting average higher 20, but under 40.

    I'd like to know when the last time a number 11 has an FC ton to his name n but the 8, 9 and 10 haven't…

  • Mark on April 19, 2013, 6:50 GMT

    @clarke501 I think that the alarm bell is that you have played two of the three sides that most people identified as likely strugglers. The broken finger to Fuller and rain helped a lot v Gloucs, but a side that had struggled desperately to score runs pre-season, or last season ran up 400. This time the attack has only conceeded 399, but it looks like only a huge rearguard fight will stop a 3 day defeat.

    I'm not sure what the solution is. One and a half matches into the season is not the point to panic and change captain or coach. However, I would be surprised if Sajid Mahmood were not in the side for the next match: you have him, you might as well play him - if he sinks, that's his problem. He has a strike rate of 56 in Tests, which is pretty good, so something somewhere has gone horribly wrong (although his fellow England seamer, Liam Plunkett, seems to sunk even further) and could sort itself out again just as fast.

  • Andrew on April 19, 2013, 2:38 GMT

    As I said on the Day 1 report, Copeland would be my bolter for the Ashes, primarily as I felt he was a similar bowler to Tremlett (FC stats suggest MAYBE better). IF he keeps batting like this, he may open the batting AND bowling for Oz!

  • paul on April 18, 2013, 21:50 GMT

    I wonder why so many players do so well after leaving Essex., eg Chopra/Wright/Welch (coach)/Peters/Middlebrook/probably Wheater/and possibly others. Also Pietesen did terrible for Essex but scores plenty for South africa and Somerset. I just wonder if Grayson is the right man and i not convinced that Foster is suitable for captain. I mean, not bowling Smith or much of Bopara today. Also Chambers and Mills bowling together is a no no, in my view, they both just leak runs. It is indeed a poor showing when Essex continue to have to rely on Masters for accuracy and wicket taking for so many years. It was a poor year last season and i am not at all optimistic for this season. Despite what Grayson says, i get the impression that it is the 1 day game that he is interested in, with the players at his disposal.

  • Cricinfouser on April 18, 2013, 20:07 GMT

    @CSG - Even as an Essex fan, it's hard to argue with your analysis. Only two games but the signs are ominous.

  • Mark on April 18, 2013, 19:39 GMT

    I was not too convinced by Northants credentials for avoiding being in or around the wooden spoon battle. However, I was convinced that Steven Crook would be a good signing and so he is proving. However, that former opinion may have to be revised on this form.

    Essex, on the other hand, seem to have real issues. Two matches and off the pace in both. The attack looks totally toothless and the batting inspid.