It was a day of contrasts at Wantage Road as the 2017 County season started in dramatic fashion in the East Midlands. One which quickly turned into a dream start for hosts Northamptonshire, and a nightmare for Glamorgan, from the moment captain Jacques Rudolph elected to have a toss and opted to bat.
Within the blink of an eye Glamorgan were 9-3 and then 26-6, and for a while their recovery to 101 didn’t look too bad when Northants were reduced to 26-3 in reply. But, by the close, Rory Kleinveldt had smacked an unbeaten 71 from just 41 balls as the hosts ended 167 runs to the good.
In many ways the two sides had carried on where they left off at the end of the 2016 season. Glamorgan had lost 6-10 in their second innings to lose against Leicestershire, one of four defeats in their final five games. And by the time Nathan Buck had taken three wickets in his first nine balls on Championship debut for Northants today, their last 12 Championship wickets had fallen for only 36 runs.
For a young batting line-up that struggled for runs, ducks for Nick Selman, David Lloyd, Chris Cooke and Kiran Carlson is hardly an ideal start for Glamorgan, whilst captain Rudolph, again coming off the back of a lean year, made only nine.
Aneurin Donald carried the Welsh side to three figures and slight respectability but 84-8 at lunch can hardly have been what Rudolph imagined when he won the toss. The pitch provided just enough assistance, which Northants’ bowlers took full advantage of.
Rory Kleinveldt started things off with three early strikes, before Buck’s burst and Ben Sanderson wrapped up the innings as all three claimed three apiece, Glamorgan dismissed 20 minutes after lunch.
There was a point when 101 didn’t appear as disastrous as it might have been. Ben Duckett, on his first appearance for Northants after a difficult winter, could only make 12 before becoming Marchant de Lange’s first Glamorgan victim, youngster Max Holden also falling without score.
27-3 could have become 27-4, but Craig Meschede bowled Alex Wakely with a no-ball and the very next delivery was spilled at slip by Carlson. It would prove a crucial moment as, instead of exposing the attacking Northants middle order early, Wakely and Rossington were able to stabilise and built the platform for Kleinveldt’s extraordinary assault.
The lead was 69 when the South African walked to the crease, with 11 overs left in the day, but eight fours and four sixes later Northants were walking off 167 to the good. Glamorgan were unsuccessful in a short ball attack to Kleinveldt, who reached his half century in just 23 balls.
“It is [a dream start], hopefully it’s a sign of things to come,” Kleinveldt said.
“It was bit of a strange morning, I don’t think anyone or the captain knew what they wanted to do, could feel a bit of moisture so was hoping we’d bowl first. Luckily we did and we exploited that, myself Sando and Bucky on debut having a dream debut.
“Wakers [Alex Wakely] got away with a couple early on, but him and Rosso had a great partnership, Richard came in and played positively which put us on the front foot and myself and Crooky were able to come in and play with some freedom.
“I was helped there was a bit of short boundary on one side, just tried to back myself to clear that boundary, if I hit it half well enough.
“I still feel that there’s a few balls doing a bit, if we do as well as we did in the first innings I think we’ll be able to [bowl Glamorgan out for a second time]. It’s about being able to roll it out again and being consistent.”
Kleinveldt finished with the second highest strike rate in Division Two last season, one of four Northants’ players in the top six. Their positive play helped them to three straight wins at the end of the campaign, and they are in a great position to make that four over the weekend.
It may only be the end of day one, but already it seems a long way back for Glamorgan, on a pitch which showed signs of variable bounce. Being so far behind with so long left in the game, it is already looking ominous for Glamorgan, not what they would have wanted having only finished above Derby in last season’s final table.