Close of play day 2: Northants 481-7 (Duckett 282*)
Ben Duckett continued to dominate the Sussex attack for a second day, but bad light and rain denied the 21-year-old a chance to rewrite the County Cricket record books, finishing the day unbeaten on 282 as Northants amassed 481-7.
Duckett, starting the day on 178, added a further 102 as he recorded a maiden double century and moved within 18 runs of becoming the youngest treble centurion in English first-class cricket, when the rain came in at just before half three, ending play for the day.
That record is currently held by ex Northants team-mate David Sales, who was 64 days older than Duckett when he plundered Essex for 303 not out back in July 1999. Duckett could also break James Hildreth’s record for the earliest treble century in a county season, Hildreth’s coming on the 18th April 2009.
Any hopes he may have of reaching the historic landmark, however, may rest on his captain Alex Wakely. With Northants already having 481 on the board and the game at its midway point, Wakely may feel he has no option but to declare to keep alive hopes of victory.
The left-handed Duckett had a couple of lives. Two overs into the day on 180 substitute fielder Lewis Hatchett spilled a simple catch at cover; whilst on 237 Ed Joyce, fielding at a slightly close in point, also put him down. Now on 282, Duckett currently sits eighth in Northants all time list of individual scores.
There were also a few edges flying over the slips but for the main part, Duckett’s innings was a masterful display of stroke making, fluent cover drives and quickly pulling anything short. 152 of his runs came in boundaries as well as two straight sixes off Danny Briggs’ spin.
While Sussex’s bowlers had struggled for much of the opening day, they did improve on the second, keeping the scoring rate fairly controlled and chipping away at the other end. George Garton was the pick of the attack with three wickets.
The 18-year-old is making his Championship debut and while he is raw, 21 overs cost him 93 runs, he showed signs of genuine pace. He clean bowed Richard Levi (13) and Adam Rossington for no score within six deliveries.
Earlier Ollie Robinson had taken the first wicket of the day as Josh Cobb gloved a bouncer behind to go for 24, ending a stand of 90 with Duckett for the third wicket.
Garton’s burst after lunch ensured Northants fell four runs short of Maximum batting points before David Murphy, who played a bright and breezy 29, hooked Ajmal Shahzad out to deep square leg, and Garton picked up his third as Rory Kleveldt edged behind.
Richard Gleeson provided stubborn company for Duckett, finishing the day with two off 35, as the Northants innings lost a bit of momentum before the rain came in, Duckett perhaps for the first time reigning himself in with one eye on his personal milestones.
Just 18 runs away from history, it’s hard to blame the youngster for having one eye on 300, but the Northampton weather and captain Wakely could decide if Duckett becomes a record breaker, or just a footnote.