Keogh steers Northants away from trouble
Northamptonshire 323 for 6 (Keogh 158*) v Hampshire
For Northamptonshire, and more specifically Rob Keogh, this was quite a day. Invited to bat by Hampshire, a side who trail by them by as many as 71 points in the County Championship, they collapsed to 32 for 4 before Keogh, their 21-year-old middle order batsman, eked out a maiden century. It is hard to envisage any other individual feat matching that in their quest for promotion.
Hampshire, lacking Danny Briggs but well stocked with medium pacers, put Northamptonshire in on the basis that there would be more movement in the first hour on the first day than at any other time in the match. To have rid themselves of four top order batsmen in that period, all for single figure scores, could hardly have been improved upon. The difficulty that David Balcombe, James Tomlinson, Matt Coles, Ruel Brathwaite and Sean Ervine had to contend with after lunch was less assistance with a softer ball and, after weeks of sunshine on the south coast, a quick outfield.
Stephen Peters edged Tomlinson to the slips, James Middlebrook had his off stump knocked out by Balcombe, and Alex Wakely and David Sales were caught behind by Michael Bates, who was given a rare appearance owing to Adam Wheater playing as a specialist batsman in Michael Carberry's absence with England. Later, Bates took the pick of his three catches, this to remove Steven Crook off Brathwaite. He has one year remaining on his contract and is simply too good to be playing second XI cricket.
Sales had gone in Coles's first over. There is some interaction between Hampshire and Kent: Coles has joined Hampshire from Kent on loan and in turn, although unconnected, David Griffiths, the seamer from the Isle of Wight who is out of contract at the end of the season, is going to Canterbury. But Sam Northeast is staying put. Hampshire were keen to sign him, as indeed was Chris Adams in his last few days of running Surrey, but improved terms and the pull of his home county has prevailed.
Coles may or may not remain with Hampshire. Derbyshire and Northamptonshire are understood to be interested in him as well. One wicket was his lot on this first day because Keogh's concentration was absolute. He had the ideal partner in the initial stages of his innings in Andrew Hall, whose experience and keenness to punch the ball away was to the fore in their stand of 120 in 34 overs. Hall had made 48 when he swung Brathwaite, who is on trial, to deep square leg.
The new faces in Hampshire's side, incidentally, have increased the number of cricketers making their debuts for the club this season to nine, which is more than in any season since 1946.
Keogh, partnered now in no less obdurate fashion by Matt Spriegel, who finished unbeaten with 61, reached 150 in the closing overs and had made158 off 280 balls with 23 fours by the close. He looks technically correct, is accomplished off his legs, drives nicely off the front foot and was untroubled when the new ball was taken.
It was a sure sign that he, and his side, were in the ascendancy when Neil McKenzie was given a bowl. There will be more arduous days ahead, assuming Keogh plays in Division One in due course, but he will look back on this with immense pride.