Ten Doeschate keeps Colchester content
Northamptonshire 531 (Sales 131, Peters 101, Hall 63, Crook 63) and 54 for 0 dec drew with Essex 396 (ten Doeschate 103, Foster 95)
As with all festival cricket all over the country, the future of cricket at Castle Park is not guaranteed. The number of outgrounds abandoned by Essex bears testimony to that. So the loss of the third day's play in Colchester was a cruel blow in such a dry summer.
In terms of the match position, it proved insurmountable, for there was next to no likelihood of a positive result. Still, the crowds at a largely sun-drenched Castle Park have been encouraging, as indeed was the fine turnout of the county's old boys.
And of course, there was the signing of Monty Panesar, which startled Northamptonshire's players as much as anybody in these parts. They had arrived in Colchester the day before the game still hoping that Panesar might play for them.
There is no question that he is a draw - not necessarily on account of being an England spin bowler but simply because he is Monty. The children pick him out as he is instantly recognisable and the older supporters break into grins when his name is read out over the PA system. After all, did not the Rolling Stones urinate in public? One of their number now has a knighthood.
Panesar will not play for Essex in a YB40 match against Derbyshire that will conclude the festival week; his contract is for first-class cricket only. He will shift from a hotel room in Colchester to Chelmsford for the remainder of the season. Next week he will be appearing at Bristol. A few more wickets for this, his third county, and a decision over his whereabouts next year will be that much easier to make.
Essex, their sixth-wicket pair at the crease, resumed on the final day needing 382 to avoid following on. Quite how they had slipped to 103 for 5 on Wednesday remained baffling; they have had a tendency this season for baffling collapses.
The pitch did not take much, if any spin, and Ryan ten Doeschate and James Foster, resuming following the rain on Thursday, were untroubled in adding 180 in 45 overs and effectively securing a draw. Their enterprise made them an ideal combination at such a time.
Ten Doeschate reached his first century of the season and Foster, who had so relished keeping wicket to Panesar, contributed 95.There were also useful contributions from Graham Napier (45) and David Masters, who made an unbeaten 37.
Ten Doeschate's century came off 144 balls with nine fours and a six driven over long-on, off James Middlebrook. He emphasised once again what an unsung allrounder he is, outside aficionados of IPL. Foster, who by preference would bat at No. 6, not seven, batted assiduously in reaching a half-century off 77 balls with eight fours.
He watches the ball on to the bat and concentrates as impressively as he does when keeping wicket. Bring up his name in conversation with the old stars and they will tell you to a man how unlucky he was not to have played more Test cricket. Middlebrook did remove both batsmen, ten Doeschate immediately after reaching his century and Foster when five runs short of three figures, but Napier and Masters were not easily dislodged.
There was a cameo appearance by Panesar, elevated to No. 10 ahead of Reece Topley, and ninth out with three runs still needed. Panesar made 7 before he became Middlebrook's third victim.
At this point, with nine wickets down, three runs were still required to save the follow on. One hefty pull from Masters, off Azharullah, saw to that, although had Essex followed on, even Northants' most optimistic supporter would not have anticipated that they could force victory in the final session.
By the time Topley was leg-before to the same bowler, having not scored but at least having remained at the wicket while the follow-on figure was negotiated, the match was undoubtedly dead. Northamptonshire batted after tea, but only for the purpose of boosting their individual averages.