Crook four turns Northants day
Northamptonshire 85 for 0 trail Glamorgan 241 (Crook 4-66, Willey 3-54) by 156 runs
Northants will have had better days than this. They were not at their best with the ball and allowed Glamorgan to score 50 more than they should have. The fact that they are still in a strong position speaks volumes of their season to date - one which looks to end in promotion should they capitalise on what, by their standards, was a modest first day.
At stumps, Stephen Peters could rest easy knowing his call at the start of the day was vindicated, as a green pitch played honest and true. Both he and James Middlebrook played positively in a 21 over period that saw them score at over four-an-over, with crisp drives and the odd boundary through third man, to leave them unblemished and just 156 runs behind.
Northants went into the match with five seamers, inserting the opposition upon winning the toss. But Trent Copeland, in his penultimate game for the county before he heads home for a second and final time this summer, was uncharacteristically wayward, struggling for a consistent line against the left-handed opening pair of Will Bragg and Gareth Rees.
Rees looked at ease, particularly against David Willey, as Glamorgan built up a good head of steam, and the only thing the home support had to cheer on was the athleticism of their keeper David Murphy, who was sent tumbling down the leg side on numerous occasions throughout the day; but even he was powerless to stop a wide short-ball from Azharullah that had the members gasping.
But Northants showed that when they're not good they can be lucky, as they demonstrated in an afternoon session that saw six wickets fall.
Soon after Murray Goodwin and Chris Cooke brought up their fifty partnership for the third wicket, Cooke looked to have played a short-ball comfortably into the leg-side. Suddenly, Andrew Hall, from first slip, starts cheering and runs up to the stumps at the strikers end, pointing to a grounded bail. It turned out that as Cooke prepared for the back-foot shot, he inadvertently clipped off stump with his bat, much to the bemusement of all in the ground.
Just 17 balls later, Willey was the beneficiary of further good fortune. Despite coming around the wicket and swinging the ball into the right-hander, he somehow managed to strangle Goodwin down the leg-side. He then managed to effect the same dismissal with his very next delivery - this time from over the wicket - as Glamorgan's left-handed skipper Mark Wallace departed for a golden duck. Between the dismissal of Cooke and Wallace, only 17 runs were added.
It would be wrong to say that Willey did not deserve his four wickets. His control in his second spell was exceptional and his ability to move the ball in the air and off the seam, at good pace, was exciting to watch.
Credit should also go to Steven Crook, who powered through an 11-over spell from the Abington Avenue End to finish with four of his own. Along with Copeland and Azharullah, who recently put pen to paper on a new two-year deal, Crook has been one of the signings of the summer. It is no wonder Middlesex were reluctant to let him leave.
You will be hard-pressed to find anyone at Middlesex who would not want him back, and even fewer who begrudge the success he has enjoyed this year.