Gloucestershire opener Chris Dent hit an unbeaten century to help his side secure a draw in the LV=County Championship Division Two match at Northamptonshire.
Dent batted throughout the final day to end on 104 not out as Gloucestershire lost only two wickets before closing on 267-2. Will Tavare and Gareth Roderick also made half-centuries as the Northants bowlers offered little threat throughout the day.
Resuming on 35-0, Gloucestershire never seriously threatened the victory target of 454, but on a placid final day pitch at Wantage Road, Dent’s patient innings ensured his side batted out the day with comfort.
The 24-year-old batted for six hours and two minutes, facing 285 balls for his sixth first-class century- his first in the County Championship since Gloucestershire’s last meeting with Northants at Bristol in August 2013.
New Gloucestershire head coach Richard Dawson praised Dent’s ‘outstanding’ innings, and was on the whole pleased with his side’s first outing under his leadership, stating that if they can take their chances if the field, they have every chance of winning games.
“Chris and Will batted like we asked them to and managed to set up a great draw,” he said. “For Chris to bat that long, his decision making was outstanding and at the start of the season it’s an outstanding effort from them.
“The only thing we were thinking about was getting to tea and seeing where we were at. Northants bowled very well, they tried bouncing us, they tried spin, so they were quite proactive.
“Obviously we weren’t in a position to push for the win but that’s not to say when we turned up this morning it was out of the question.
“I think the positives we can take is we produced chances with the ball to bowl them out twice, although we didn’t take those chances. With the bat we fought hard, that’s the one thing we asked for especially in the first innings.
“I know we could have driven the game forward and pushed for the win but that’s what we need to sharpen up on, when we get those opportunities we take them and we can hopefully then just start winning games.”
His only scares in the marathon innings came on 99, when he survived a big appeal for a catch at cover, with umpire Peter Hartley ruling the ball had come off his helmet, and he was almost run out the following ball attempting a single that was never on, before completing his century with another quick single.
Starting the day requiring ten wickets to win, Northants would have fancied their chances of forcing a first Championship victory since 2013, but Dent and Tavare looked at ease throughout the morning, with the only chance of note coming when Tavare miscued a pull just wide of Rob Keogh at midwicket.
The pair reached their half-centuries off successive overs and looked set to bat through the session, only for Tavare to be bowled by Mohammed Azharullah for 66 shortly before lunch.
However, the breakthrough wouldn’t derail the visitors, as Roderick joined Dent in continuing the serene progress after lunch. Roderick had made 56 in the first innings and after a slow start, looked in good touch once more, hitting seven boundaries in completing a second half-century of the match.
The pair added 81 in 30 overs during the afternoon as Gloucestershire decided on the safe approach. However, just as in the morning, a wicket fell shortly before an interval as Roderick as trapped LBW by Rob Keogh.
Northants took the new ball four overs into the evening session, but Dent and Peter Handscomb ensured there would be no late wobbles for the visitors against a tired looking hosts attack.
After five and a half hours of assured batting, Dent reached three figures ten minutes before the sides shook hands on the draw, Northants taking 11 points to Gloucestershire’s 10.
David Willey was the star of the show for Northants on the opening three days, taking four first innings wickets before smashing an unbeaten 104, his maiden first-class century, and Willey admitted they ran out of steam on the final day.
“The game swung back and forth, and on the last day they had the best of the day. Dent played well and we had nothing left in the tank to try and get any wickets.
“Last year was a disastrous year personally and for the team so for us to come out there and play in the style that we did was pleasing. I think there were some difficult times in the game but we fought through.
“On a personal level it’s been a very good game for me, it’s good to be back and fit. I think last year with my injuries and things I fell out of love with the game. I’ve had a break, I didn’t do any cricket up until Christmas, started afterwards and I’ve really found my love for it again.
“I think I’ve had 12 first-class fifties prior to that and thrown them away so it’s nice to get across the line. I’m pleased to get there and hopefully I can score some more for the team.
“We were in a tricky situation in the second innings, but good partnerships from Rob [Keogh] and [Josh] Cobby and then myself and Rory [Kleinveldt] gave us a big enough lead to make sure they couldn’t have a shot at it today.”