Northamptonshire v Essex, Wantage Road, 3rd day

Northants crush sorry Essex

Tim Wigmore at Wantage Road

April 19, 2013

Comments: 5 | Text size: A | A

Northamptonshire 399 (Crook 88, Willey 76, Copeland 70, Napier 6-93) beat Essex 183 (Napier 73, Crook 4-39) and 207 (Quiney 56, Willey 5-67) by an innings and 9 runs
Scorecard


David Willey grabs a return catch, Northamptonshire v Essex, County Championship, Division Two, Northampton, 3rd day, April 19, 2013
David Willey grabs a caught-and-bowled during his five-wicket haul © Getty Images
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After missing out on Championship promotion by a point in 2011, Northamptonshire endured a miserable 2012, with only two Championship victories and dire performances in both the CB40 and Twenty20. But a squad that could be backed at 20-1 to be Division Two champions before the season started has so far hinted at possessing the quality, balance and depth to justify talk of Championship promotion.

Under conditions that remained good for batting, David Willey produced a compelling display of left-arm swing bowling to seal an innings victory over Essex halfway through the third day. The highlight was when Ravi Bopara, whose 41 had been a rare source of solace amid the disintegration of Essex's top order, was deceived into playing at a ball that shaped away from him. The dismissal came only a few deliveries after Willey had changed his angle from around to over the wicket, and was his fifth of the innings.

In a match-clinching spell of 6-2-15-3 shortly after lunch, Willey showed an array of talents. He displayed the classic left-armer's trait of being able to shape the ball back in from around the wicket, but it was a ball that went straight on that accounted for James Foster, playing for swing that wasn't there. A spectacular caught-and-bowled then claimed Greg Smith.

It completed Willey's best first-class game yet: match figures of 8-110 to complement a perky 76. As an allrounder and left-armer there may be those saying he could be considered for England, but Willey's bowling, impressive as it was, could do with a little extra pace - and coach David Ripley believes he could yet put on another yard - to trouble batsmen less complicit than Essex's were here. But he would not be undeserving of an England Lions call-up for their match against New Zealand next month.

After bowling out Essex for 183 in the first innings, Northants will have been even more thrilled to have dismissed them for 207 in the second. While the pitch offered some assistance for seamers on the first day, it flattened out - as it often does at Wantage Road - on the second and third. Northants displayed unrelenting discipline, seldom straying from their line outside off stump and trusting that rash shot selection from Essex's batsmen would do the rest.

That it certainly did. Of Essex's top order in the second innings only Bopara and - at a push - Foster could not honestly claim culpability for their dismissals. The wickets of Rob Quiney, who had played well for 56, and Mark Pettini, both swiping outside the off stump attempting to cut balls when more attritional batting was required, were particularly disappointing. They could learn from Maurice Chambers, who played with admirable disciple for his 65-ball 3.

Copeland may return

  • Trent Copeland will play as Northants' overseas player for the first seven Championship matches of this season, but coach David Ripley explained that the club plan to review the situation with a view to signing another overseas player - Copeland returning could be one possibility - for the final five Championship games of the season, from August 20.

  • "We're not a bottomless pit, our budget is tight," he said. "We've done very well and the club's been very supportive to get the squad together that we've got. There's not a lot of money left in the budget for us to take that on. Realistically we'd certainly have to be in the top half of the league and pushing."

Reflecting on the victory, admitted "it was a good toss to win" and said that the 228 runs added for their last two wickets proved decisive. "They're good players and we said they're good players but they batted - rather than sulking because they're down the bottom - with purpose and that swung the game our way. The match-winning effort was that few hours where the game swung massively in our favour."

Ripley believes Northants could win Championship promotion. "Absolutely. I've said right from the start we've been very competitive generally over the years in four-day cricket. We perhaps haven't been the same in one-day cricket and we've focused hard on our one-day skills."

"We've got a good balance in that seam attack. Trent Copeland is relentless and has got good skills; Andrew Hall is a master of hitting the seam; David gives us left-arm and swing; and Steven Crook gives us a bit of cutting edge and a bit of pace so I think we've got a good variety in that attack."

On Willey, Ripley added: "He's come a long way in 18 months. He's a good professional, he looks after himself very well off the field. He's an absolute athlete - his caught-and-bowled, not many in the country would have taken a catch like that."

Based on this evidence, there is every chance a disciplined side with the longest batting line-up in the country - and, in Matthew Spriegel and Olly Stone, some solid players who have yet to appear - may yet challenge for promotion. For Essex, this performance, coming on the back of conceding 409 for 5 against Gloucestershire at Chelmsford last week, will raise some serious questions. Their coach Paul Grayson was unavailable for comment.

Instead, it was left to Bopara. "They bowled relentlessly on a length, they bowled very well as a unit which we can learn from I think," he said. "It really showed us how to get stuck in with the ball. I didn't think anything was special when it came to their batting - we had them 170 for 8 but unfortunately their last few batters played really, really well and you've got to give it to them." He admitted that "we kind of did lose control" during Northants' game changing lower-order intervention.

Compounding their problems, Essex could yet face a points penalty on account of their slow over-rate in this match.

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Posted by paulad on (April 20, 2013, 10:34 GMT)

I just noticed another former Essex player has at the moment 3/5 against Derby. I am sure we find a current ex Essex team plus coach from those who are now playing for other counties who could beat this current Essex side.

Posted by paulad on (April 20, 2013, 10:29 GMT)

After match , it was left for Bopara to say "They bowled relentlessly on a length, they bowled very well as a unit which WE CAN LEARN FROM, I THINK"

The Essex fast bowlers have had years of coaching to LEARN line and length. Only Masters has 'mastered' this art from. Are Mills and Chambers one trick pony?

And why is it left to Bopara to say something, It says in that report that Grayson was unavailable to speak, where was Foster, the captain?

It is a poor start from Essex, no cricket today on what is in Essex a glorious day, weatherwise.

Posted by   on (April 20, 2013, 8:54 GMT)

Thanks for comments. @Paul - writing this week's countyscape on Essex's problems, so there's plenty more to come. Will be out on Monday. @Tom - I agree batting is problematic at the top and over-reliant on Peters (who played excellently). Spriegel coming in for one of the top order, perhaps Coetzer, must be a possibility. And batting is why they remain dark horses for promotion, well as they have started.

Posted by   on (April 20, 2013, 0:56 GMT)

As excited as I can get with northants start to the season it is the top order which gives me greatest concern. We expect a lot of peters and of the lower order. Whilst i hope for great things of David sales this season I fear it will be yet another year of disappointment and underachievement which when the more bowler friendly conditions of early season subside will leave us in a similar position to 2011 where most of the success was due to lower order batting and making the most of good bowling conditions. The likes of Newton and wakley need to man up and the senior staff such as David sales need to lead by example. The challenges to come will be far greater than Essex

Posted by   on (April 19, 2013, 18:55 GMT)

A poor performance from a team with little to no credit in the bank to ask supporters to be forgiving with.

Since we got to finals day in 2010 (we were doing well in division one up to that point as well) the team has been woefully under-performing. The players, coaches and administrators need to get to the root of the problem quickly.

Perhaps it's time for a change in the captaincy for the championship? Bopara would probably be enhanced with the responsibility. He certainly has a good record when he's captained Essex in the championship before now.

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