Northampton, April 12 - 15, 2015, LV= County Championship Division Two
333 & 416/8d
(T:454) 296 & 267/2

Match drawn


Whirlwind Willey puts Northants in sight

David Willey transformed an otherwise well-matched contest to leave Northamptonshire in sight of their first first-class victory since 2013

Gloucestershire 296 and 35 for 0 need a further 419 to beat Northamptonshire 333 and 416 for 8 (Willey 104*, Keogh 81, Cobb 58)
First with the ball, and now with the bat. For the second day in a row at Wantage Road, a staggering burst of acceleration from David Willey transformed an otherwise well-matched contest to leave Northamptonshire in sight of their first first-class victory since their annus mirabilis in 2013.
Willey's three wickets in four balls to dock Gloucestershire's tail on Monday afternoon were matched for dramatic effect by a brutal 79-ball century. At the age of 25, it was the first first-class hundred of a career that has been plagued by injury for the past 18 months, and it laid waste to a diligent day's work from a Gloucestershire attack that, while never quite dominating, had held their opponents in check for the first session and a half.
As well as seven fours, Willey cracked six sixes in his onslaught, four of which came in the space of eight balls after tea, as he turned up the heat against a demoralised Gloucestershire, whose fielders wilted in the bright spring sunshine.
A rash of fielding errors were compounded in the late-innings frenzy when Rory Kleinveldt, who made 48 from 52 balls, was dropped twice in as many overs by Will Tavare in the deep. Willey needed no such lives, however, and had hurtled to 104 not out from 83 balls when the declaration came from Alex Wakely.
It might be an affront to suggest to Willey that the gulf between first- and second-division cricket is widening by the year, but then again, as the son of one of the county's most hard-bitten campaigners, he's nobody's fool either. The team that failed to win a match all last season and lost by an innings on eight occasions, has played with a combination of flair and resolve that they were unable to produce in the top flight last summer. Today's outing is surely a harbinger of better times ahead.
With that in mind, the day's unsung heroes were the sixth-wicket pair of Josh Cobb and Rob Keogh, who added 101 to shore up an innings that was in distinct jeopardy in the day's early exchanges. After resuming on 68 for 2 overnight, Northants lost Rob Newton to a loose cut to point for 19 before Wakely attempted to work Liam Norwell off his pads and lobbed a simple return catch to the bowler.
Adam Rossington then flashed at Norwood before he was set and top-edged a miscued pull to point for 4. At 110 for 5, a major renovation was required by the home team. Cobb, his allegiances newly transferred from Leicestershire, dug in while Keogh made the early running, but having waited 64 balls for his first boundary, he celebrated in style with four more in a row off the toiling James Fuller, whose 19 overs were dispatched for 114 runs.
Cobb was the first to reach his fifty, from exactly 100 balls, before attempting to up the ante against Kieran Noema-Barnett and holing out to mid-on for 58. And Keogh was denied what would have been a hugely deserved hundred when, on 81, he was trapped lbw by the left-arm spin of Dent.
By that stage, however, Willey was firmly in the zone and all Gloucestershire's players could do was sit tight and wait for the inevitable. The declaration duly came with a tricky 15-over spell to negotiate, which Dent and Tavare managed with few alarms. By the close they had reached 35 for 0, still trailing by a hefty 419.

Andrew Miller is a former editor of the Cricketer. @miller_cricket