Magoffin sinks Northants to new low
Northamptonshire 116 (Magoffin 5-12) and 80 for 3 trail Sussex 405 (Wright 158) by 209 runs
There becomes a point in a season at which it's difficult to slump any further into oblivion. Northamptonshire supporters had every reason to assume their side had already hit rock bottom on their return to Division One but a first positive result of the campaign last week at Lord's has only proved to be a momentary lull in an otherwise deplorable effort.
True, they will not face a bowler of the astute calibre of Steve Magoffin each week nor will they have to surmount a surface of this nature too often but that their opponents - who lie just one place ahead of them in the standings - managed to post 405 having been inserted on the first morning, puts their latest disintegration into perspective; this is surely the lowest of the low.
At one point, their lowest score of 43 against Sussex was in danger as the possibility of the visitors submerging inside two days was a distinct one. As it was, they managed to muster enough defiance second time around - having folded for 116 in the face of Magoffin's mastery - to take some of the venomous sting from Sussex's besiegement but their heads are only just above water - they remain 209 runs in arrears.
The fact that an ECB pitch liaison officer has been summoned by the umpires to cast his eye over proceedings does little to disguise Northants' shortcomings and certainly offers little justification for such an abject performance. Indeed, the surface has cracks that cause certain deliveries to misbehave and the bounce is at times variable but they had their opportunity to take advantage and didn't. Sussex certainly have and in clinical fashion too - thirteen Northants wickets fell in two sessions.
There was an expectation, based on Sunday's evidence, that Magoffin would be the chief beneficiary of such conditions. In truth, he was probably as surprised as anyone at how easily Northants obliged. Stephen Peters was hesitant and had his furniture rearranged, James Kettleborough prodded forward at one to edge behind and Matthew Spriegel was the third back in the pavilion without a single run on the board. Lunch was taken with the visitors 1 for 3.
By the close, the top-order had come and gone again, albeit with slightly more resistance. Yet Peters, the Northants skipper, was run-out in circumstances that epitomised his sides' pitiful state; he pushed young Matt Hobden to mid-on with only a couple of overs remaining only to be left wanting by Luke Wright's direct hit.
Wright had earlier continued to demonstrate that this pitch was no minefield as he resumed where he'd left off on Sunday by rubbing salt into Northants' already deep wounds. His last four Championship centuries have all been above 150 as he took advantage of the opposition's profligacy; he was dropped twice before eventually falling to Andrew Hall.
But that was only the beginning of the butchery. Magoffin's uncomplicated action is as easy on the eye as it is repetitive and it was his relentless line and length that caused the damage. After his initial burst yielded four wickets, he returned from the Sea End to immediately remove Kyle Coetzer and claim his 44th scalp of another dazzling season.
In an age when so much emphasis is placed on the recruitment of an overseas player, there is no doubt that Sussex have struck gold with Magoffin. But, at 34 there is a need to manage his workload and in rotating his bowlers at regular intervals throughout both innings, Ed Joyce did just that. Hobden is a vastly contrasting operator to his senior but provided able support in ensuring the stranglehold was maintained throughout. He generates natural pace and bounce from a bustling run-up and slingy action and struck with his first legitimate ball - his first was a no-ball - to trap Rob Newton in front.
Newton was spared another working over late in the day after Olly Stone drew the short straw and was sent out - equipped with full body armour - to withstand the closing overs as nightwatchman. He succeeded in his role but there will be no hiding place for his prostrate team mates tomorrow, they'll need to stand up and show the sort of application and diligence that has clearly been absent from their endeavours thus far.