Stumps, Day Two: Worcestershire 277 (Cox 74, Whiteley 66; Azharullah 4-68) & 181-4 (D’Oliveira 81) lead Northamptonshire 148 (Rossington 55; Leach 5-70) by 310 runs
Worcestershire took full control of their County Championship Division Two clash with Northamptonshire after dominating Day Two at Wantage Road, dismissing the hosts for just 148 before taking their lead to 310, ending on 181-4 after Brett D’Oliveira’s 81.
Joe Leach completed his sixth first-class five wicket haul as Northamptonshire lost their last eight wickets for 52 runs in the morning, Matt Henry also picked up three as the hosts crumbled to a sizable first innings deficit of 129.
D’Oliveira then led the way in the second innings and although three late wickets saw the visitors end the day four down, they remain in position to push for victory, with a lead of over 300 and six wickets still in hand.
Worcestershire had slipped to 51-5 in their first innings, before recovering to post 277, but D’Oliveira and skipper Darryl Mitchell ensured there was no such repeat, seeing off the new ball with comfort before going on to compile a century stand.
Whilst the pitch was offering little in assistance for Northants’ depleted seam attack, Ben Sanderson kept it tight but Muhammed Azharullah and Steven Crook offered little threat, there were signs of turn on a track that has been used for two previous T20 matches before this week.
It was spin that eventually brought the breakthrough after tea and having not offered a chance of note on his way to 47, it came as a bit of a surprise when Mitchell missed one and was given LBW.
D’Oliveira continued on his way however, reaching a composed half century, not one packed with boundaries but he and Tom Fell, on his second first-class outing since his comeback, successfully milked the spin of Monty Panesar and Rob Keogh, with Seekuge Prasanna off the field for a while.
Eighteen overs went by without a boundary, but as D’Oliveira attempted to up the rate, it proved his downfall, as he was caught out by a smart bit of bowling by Keogh, who saw him advancing, fired one down the leg side with David Murphy completing a smart stumping.
Joe Clarke was then bowled by Keogh first ball, and Tom Kohler-Cadmore also departed without score, Prasanna returned to have a second successful LBW, but Fell remains unbeaten on 36, together with nightwatchman Ed Barnard as Worcestershire look to stretch their lead from an imposing one to an unassailable chase.
However Northants only had themselves to blame after a poor morning and early afternoon saw them collapse to a first innings deficit that left them a mountain to climb.
A frenetic start saw Richard Levi and Adam Rossington add 34 runs in six overs, and Levi had already been dropped and saw an inside edge fly past the stumps before he top edged a pull off Henry to fall for 27.
Rossington passed 500 first-class runs for the summer on his way to a fourth half century, during a morning interrupted by three short rain delays, but his departure, edging a drive off Henry shortly before lunch saw Northants final sizable resistance depart.
Prasanna tamely edged Henry to the slips shortly after the interval and D’Oliveira picked up Azharullah and Sanderson, both LBW in successive overs, before David Murphy, who had at least shown a willingness to occupy the crease, was last man to fall for 23, chasing runs with only Panesar for company.
Northants will wonder how they’ve got into the position they find themselves in after such a successful first morning, but whilst Worcestershire’s last five wickets added 223, their own managed just 52, and at the moment that is looking like being the deceive factor as unless rain comes in, Northants face a huge task to avoid defeat.