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Keogh ton helps Northants avoid T20 hangover

Northamptonshire 345 for 6 (Keogh 154, Crook 84) v Worcestershire
Scorecard

Rob Keogh's first century of the season in the Specsavers County Championship, backed up in a partnership of 159 with Steven Crook, put Northamptonshire in control on the first day against Worcestershire at New Road.

The 24-year-old Keogh made 154, with three sixes and 21 fours from 236 balls, and Crook provided aggressive support with an unbeaten 84 from 123 deliveries in their side's progress to 345 for 6.

The end for Keogh, after nearly five hours, came from a misjudgement when he was run out by Ed Barnard, swooping from mid-off as the batsmen went for a sharp single.

This was a big change of tack for Northamptonshire. Three days after winning the NatWest T20 Blast trophy at Edgbaston, they needed to refocus on avoiding the Division Two wooden spoon in the Championship.

Thanks to Keogh's guidance, it's a case of so far, so good. Having started the day 17 points clear of bottom county Derbyshire, they extended the gap by taking three bonus points in a challenging response to Worcestershire's decision to bowl first.

The initial skirmishing marginally went in the home side's favour as Northants lost their fourth wicket at 118 after a hard-fought 41 overs, but in the 90 minutes up to tea Keogh and two partners scored 128 in 23 overs.

Richard Levi was first to raise the tempo, although the South African would have been disappointed to fall into a Worcestershire trap after making 33 out of 54 in 10 overs.

Tempted by a short ball from Charlie Morris, he pulled it straight to deep square leg for a comfortable catch by Joe Clarke, one of two men posted for the shot.

By then, Keogh was approaching his best score of the season, 75 against Sussex at Arundel, and ready to avoid Levi's mistake when he succeeded in clumping a similar shot over the rope.

Crook was just the man to put pressure on a quartet of seamers, toiling on a hot afternoon. Not for the first time at New Road, the allrounder took the game to the bowlers as a new partnership raced along at five runs an over.

Keogh hit another six and duly reached three-figures with his 15th four from 144 balls. His innings was perhaps not quite chanceless after a couple of flirtations outside off stump, but it was a high-value performance in straightening out his team's early problems.

Rob Newton, after a double century in the previous match, was out in the sixth over, a leading edge off Barnard falling to Morris at mid-off, and Ben Duckett, after a bright start, went for 26, driving Joe Leach to extra cover.

Alex Wakely followed up his valuable runs on T20 finals day by making 25 out of 64 added for the third wicket, but was out soon after lunch, pushing at a ball from Barnard for a routine catch by wicketkeeper Ben Cox.

Levi was involved in a stand of 54, at more than twice the rate, and Worcestershire were pushed back by the force of Crook's half-century from 64 balls.

Keogh was on 106 at tea and could have gone without addition when pulling Barnard to deep mid-wicket, but Tom Fell, having made ground to his left, was unable to take a difficult chance.