Rory Kleinveldt took four wickets as Northamptonshire secured their first win in 21 County Championship games, beating Leicestershire by 114 runs at Grace Road. Mohammad Azharullah also chipped in with three wickets.
Beginning the day needing nine wickets for victory, Kleinveldt and Azharullah, as well as two wickets from Olly Stone, ensured they made light work of the task, with Leicestershire bowled out for 283 before tea, with Niall O’Brien’s 58 the only resistance of note.
After a winless campaign last season the victory was Northants’ first since beating Glamorgan at the end of August 2013, and captain Alex Wakely was delighted to end that run and praised Kleinveldt’s efforts on the final day.
“For us getting the first win is a big thing,” he said. “We’ve played very good cricket the last two games; it was very frustrating against Gloucestershire but a different game here, there was a lot more in it for the bowlers and ultimately we played some pretty good cricket.
“We were stuck in on a pitch that, in my opinion, was slightly underprepared, it was a very tough start, but as we have done over the last few years, time and time again we’ve got ourselves out of trouble.
“I still feel our top order has to fire but apart from that we’re in a pretty good state, we’re a very close unit and we’re showing that at the moment. We had one bad session where we could have nearly lost the game when we bowled poorly but we talked about it and came back pretty strong.
“I thought Rory was on fire today, when it’s difficult to get the ball out of someone’s hand that’s what you want as a captain! You want someone who can run in and bowl all day and that’s exactly what he did.
“I think everyone in this game has done exceptionally, with only four seamers it’s very difficult, so credit has to go to them but we have such a good squad, if we can keep everybody fit we’re not relying on anyone.”
While David Willey had a quiet final day, his 88 in the second innings allowed Northants to post a total well beyond Leicestershire’s reach, and Wakely backed his vice-captain to make his England debut in the ODI against Ireland next Friday.
“I think he will get the chance, I think he has to play,” Wakely added. “What he’s got, especially in white ball cricket, you can’t ignore, and in four day stuff he’s hitting the ball as well as I’ve ever seen him.
“He’s working as hard as he can on his bowling. I know he’s playing in the second team in the t20 to get some white ball practice under his belt, he wants it more than ever, he’s fitter than ever so I don’t see why England wouldn’t pick him, for me he’s a shoe-in.”
After Willey had removed Dan Redfern last night, Leicestershire began the final day 44-1, but Northants took just four overs to strike as Azharullah breached the defence of Angus Robson to remove his off stump for 32.
Mark Cosgrove followed shortly after, trapped LBW for 2 off Stone, and before the first hour was out, Neil Pinner (12) was also back in the pavilion, falling LBW to Azharullah to leave Leicestershire 93-4.
O’Brien wasn’t going down without a fight against his former side however as the Irishman made a typically punchy half-century, taking the attack to Northants as he shared a stand of 59 with Ned Eckersley, who battled over two hours for his 37, but fell shortly before lunch, also trapped LBW for Kleinveldt’s first wicket of the day.
O’Brien completed a 59-ball half-century half an hour into the afternoon but in the following over Kleinveldt’s double strike ended any nerves he might have been causing Northants, with Wells (13) becoming the fourth batsman to fall LBW, before O’Brien was bowled three balls later.
Azharullah picked up his third wicket as Ben Raine edged a wide delivery behind, before Clint McKay delayed Northants’ celebrations by clubbing 30 in a ninth wicket stand of 37 with Ollie Freckingham.
However, one shot too many saw him pick out Rob Newton on the square leg boundary off Stone, before Kleinveldt returned to wrap up the match, as last man Charlie Shreck edged behind, and the Northants players could dust off their victory song at last.