Day Three - report
Warwickshire recorded their third successive Specsavers County Championship victory by beating Northamptonshire by six wickets on the third day at Edgbaston.
Facing a victory target of 179, no formality on a pitch offering some variable bounce, the home side were reduced to 44 for three by an excellent pre-lunch burst of 7.3-2-9-3 by Ben Sanderson.
But opener Will Rhodes stayed firm to lodge his maiden first-class century against a Northamptonshire attack already missing the injured Richard Gleeson and further deprived of Steven Crook, off the field with a hamstring injury.
Rhodes ended with an unbeaten 100 (165 balls, 13 fours, one six) to see his team over the line with four sessions to spare.
Warwickshire's win cemented their place at the top of Division Two and leaves them well-placed to challenge hard for promotion straight back up.
Northamptonshire's promotion ambitions have been hammered by a haul of just 15 points from their first four games. They could use some better luck on the injury front, but also need their batsmen, too many of whom perished on the offensive in this match, to give their impressive bowling attack something to work with.
Trailing by nine runs on first innings, Northamptonshire resumed on the third morning on 160 for seven and added only another 27 as Olly Stone completed a five-for against his former team-mates.
Doug Bracewell left a ball too late and feathered Stone to wicketkeeper Tim Ambrose, Chris Wright knocked out Brett Hutton's off-stump and Rob Keogh (29, 58 balls, three fours) pulled Stone to long leg and fell to a fine catch by Henry Brookes right on the boundary.
Stone finished with five for 49, taking his wicket-haul in the last three championship innings to 15 at 12.4 runs apiece.
Northamptonshire needed to strike early and did through Sanderson whose fifth ball was chipped to square leg by Dominic Sibley. Rhodes and Ian Bell added 36 in 12 overs but then Sanderson struck two big blows. Bell was pinned lbw by an excellent delivery and Trott fell in similar fashion on the stroke of lunch to send Northants into the interval scenting their first victory of the season.
That scent faded as Rhodes and Sam Hain added 50 in 16 overs. Hain latter edged Luke Proctor to Ben Hutton at slip but Matt Lamb (23 not out, 62 balls, three fours) provided Rhodes with staunch support in an unbroken stand of 86 in 22 overs.
Day Two - report
Warwickshire and Northamptonshire are both eyeing up a precious Specsavers County Championship victory after swapping blows for two gripping days at Edgbaston.
Northamptonshire, trailing by nine, on first innings, were 160 for seven - 151 ahead - when bad light ended the second day 14 overs early.
On a pitch starting to offer variable bounce, the visitors will fancy their chances if they can set a target in the region of 209. But Warwickshire will point to the partnerships that have been built when the ball has gone soft and feel they have a real chance of cementing their place at the top of Division Two.
It is a splendid, intense, competitive match with the initiative switching from team to team and, attended by good crowds, a fine advert for county championship cricket.
After resuming on the second morning on 100 for four, Warwickshire advanced to 265 all out. Doug Bracewell quickly removed both overnight batsmen as Matt Lamb fell lbw and Ian Bell (61, 93 balls, five fours) departed furious with himself after steering Brett Hutton to third slip.
Hutton's third catch of the innings removed Jeetan Patel off Steven Crook who also had Chris Wright caught behind. That left Warwickshire struggling on 169 for eight - still 87 behind - but Tim Ambrose (78, 97 balls, 13 fours) and Henry Brookes (50, 78 balls, eight fours) added 95 in 21 overs.
They took their side in front before Ambrose edged Crook behind. Two balls later, Crook limped off injured but Ben Sanderson wrapped up the innings in the next over when he trapped Brookes lbw.
Bracewell (four for 71) and (Crook four for 51) shared eight of the ten wickets - having scored 173 of their side's 256 runs in the first innings.
Northamptonshire started their second innings with a brisk opening stand of 39 in 47 balls before Luke Procter edged Brookes to third slip. Ben Duckett (38, 34 balls, six fours) fell lbw attempting to sweep Patel's first ball and further wickets fell just before and after tea as Alex Wakeley pulled Olly Stone to deep square leg and Richard Levi was superbly held by Jonathan Trott at slip off Chris Wright. Adam Rossington's perky 23 was terminated by one from Wright that barely got up and struck him in front.
Stone then ensured that the last initiative shift of the day favoured Warwickshire when he removed Josh Cobb (30, 34 balls) caught behind and Steven Crook, bowled, with successive balls.
Day One - report
Top v bottom made for engrossing fare at Edgbaston where Warwickshire closed the opening day of their Specsavers County Championship match on 100 for four in reply to Northamptonshire's 256.
When the visitors, having chosen to bat, plummeted to 102 for seven, it appeared that Division Two leaders Warwickshire were heading for total command.
But an eighth-wicket stand of 122 in 31 overs between Steven Crook (92, 104 balls, 15 fours) and Doug Bracewell (81, 134 balls, 11 fours, one six) kept their side in the game - and secured their first batting point of the season along the way.
Bracewell then quickly removed both Warwickshire openers and Northamptonshire, without key men Rob Newton (broken finger) and Richard Gleeson (elbow injury), showed their resilience to add the further wickets of Jonathan Trott and Sam Hain to totally even up a day which they had started so wretchedly.
Their morning of woe began with the 13th ball which Ben Duckett nicked behind off Chris Wright. Henry Brookes then delivered almost-unplayable outswingers which clipped Alex Wakeley's off-stump and induced an edge from Richard Levi to slip.
At 29 for three, a daft run out was the last thing Northamptonshire needed but that's what came along when Luke Procter attempted a second run to third man and was beaten by Brookes' accurate throw.
Former Northants bowler Olly Stone struck with his first ball, which Adam Rossington edged behind, before Brookes trapped Rob Keogh lbw to leave the visitors 52 for six.
Crook and Josh Cobb (39, 34 balls) counter-attacked to add 50 in nine overs and, after the latter lifted Stone to point, Crook and Bracewell saw their side to their first batting point of 2018. Crook was eight short of a well-deserved century when he tickled a leg-side delivery from Jeetan Patel to wicketkeeper Tim Ambrose.
A superb catch by Ambrose, off Wright, removed Brett Hutton to leave last pair Bracewell and Ben Sanderson with 21 to find to acquire a second batting point. They managed that before Bracewell lofted Brookes to deep point to leave the 18-year-old with four for 54, having harvested career-best bowling figures for the third successive innings.
Bracewell then inflicted swift damage with the ball when he had openers Dominic Sibley and Will Rhodes snared in the slips from his fifth and 24th balls respectively. Hutton trapped Trott lbw in his first over and Hain was adjudged lbw, offering no shot, to Crook, leaving Warwickshire leaning heavily on the class of Ian Bell (55 not out, 76 balls, eight fours).
Warwickshire v Northants
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