Gloucestershire win despite Northants rearguard
Gloucestershire 302 and 76 for 3 beat Northamptonshire 124 and 252 by seven wickets
Half-centuries from James Middlebrook and David Murphy for Northamptonshire were in vain as Gloucestershire boosted their County Championship promotion hopes with a seven-wicket victory in three days at Wantage Road.
An eighth-wicket partnership of 141 between Middlebrook and wicketkeeper Murphy offered some belated resistance from the home side, with Middlebrook making 81 and Murphy 55 in a total of 252. Jon Lewis took 3 for 45 to help set Gloucestershire 75 to win, a target they reached comfortably despite Jack Brooks taking the early wickets of openers William Porterfield and Jonathan Batty.
Northamptonshire began the day teetering on the brink of defeat on 128 for 7, following on from their paltry first-innings total of 124 all out and still 50 runs behind their opponents. Resuming at the crease for them were Middlebrook and Murphy, who were on 20 and 1 respectively.
They stuck around to post Northamptonshire's best partnership of the match, beating the 38 made between Ben Howgego and Alex Wakely in their first innings. They survived the first hour to ensure that Gloucestershire would have to bat again and Middlebrook reached his fifty from 109 balls, having been dropped on 43 by Porterfield at third slip off Steven Kirby.
He and Murphy went on to pile on the runs together as they continued to frustrate the visitors' attack until lunch, which they reached on 231 for 7. Together they set a record eighth-wicket stand for Northamptonshire against Gloucestershire, passing the 96 made by Roy Virgin and Sarfraz Nawaz at Northampton in 1977.
Murphy went on to reach his half-century from 133 balls in the fourth over of the afternoon before Lewis broke the deadlock when he pinned Middlebrook lbw in the third over after the second new ball was taken. Brooks (1) was then pinned leg before by James Franklin before Murphy was dismissed in the same manner by Lewis to wrap up the innings and set Gloucestershire their small victory target.
Ireland international Porterfield made a brisk 23 in 13 balls before smashing a loose drive off Brooks straight to Wakely at mid-off. Brooks then claimed a second victim when he forced wicketkeeper Batty to edge to his opposite number Murphy.
Gloucestershire captain Alex Gidman's middle stump was then sent tumbling by Zimbabwe's Elton Chigumbura before rain stopped play with 22 runs still needed for victory. Chris Dent and Steve Snell quickly guided Gloucestershire over the line when play resumed, finishing unbeaten on 28 and 10 respectively.