There was no final day drama at Cardiff as Northampton made light work of their 218 target, half centuries from Rob Newton and Simon Kerrigan guiding the visitors to a seven wicket in against Glamorgan.
Having lost Ben Duckett on the third evening, they needed a further 176 but Newton and night watchman Kerrigan’s second wicket stand of 90 never gave Glamorgan a sniff of victory, Newton’s 65 his second half century of the match, whilst Kerrigan fell for 62.
In fact only the rain threatened to deny Northants, with an 80 minute delay when just nine were required, but first innings centurion Richard Levi sealed a seventh Championship win of the season as Northants kept alive their outside promotion hopes, whilst it was a sixth defeat in seven for Glamorgan.
Worcestershire’s win against Leicestershire to go top means Northants are 29 points adrift of Nottinghamshire, who visit Wantage Road next week, with Worcester a further nine ahead, but with only one game to play.
Having beaten Sussex by six wickets last week, head coach David Ripley was delighted with the way his side backed up that victory with another fine performance in South Wales.
“I thought we played really well last week. That was probably our best performance of the summer, but apart from the second half of the second day when maybe we didn’t capitalise on the position we were in, the rest of the game we’ve played really well.
“We played particularity well in that second dig to not give ourselves some awkward times, as it was the kind of chase if you lose a couple in clusters it could have been hard work.
“If we walk off 25-3 [last night] the game’s very well set up so it was important we blunted it last night, only lost one and then had to do the same this morning.
“Simon showed a lot of application but Newts has been in good form and looked like he was going to see us home.”
Early wickets could have given Glamorgan a route back into a game. They had always been on the back foot, having been dismissed for 207 on the opening day, but the hosts’ bowlers couldn’t take the opportunity in a disjointed first hour that allowed Newton and Kerrigan to get off to a flyer with little risk.
From that moment the chase appeared a formality, Kerrigan taking the attack to Andrew Salter’s spin, whilst Newton hit seven fours. But, much like his first innings 67, he couldn’t kick on as Craig Meschede finally got the breakthrough trapping him LBW shortly before lunch.
Kerrigan went to only a third half century of his 103 game first class career, and was only one short of his career best 63 when he shouldered arms to Hogan and was bowled.
There would be no further twists, though, as captain Alex Wakely and Levi continued the cruise to the line. That cruise became a sprint as he became apparent rain was imminent, both hit sixes but were still nine short when a heavy downpour forced the players off.
An 80-minute delay followed, but it was only delaying the inevitable, and they needed just four minutes and nine balls to wrap up proceeds when they returned to the field.
Newton’s twin half centuries meant were the ninth and tenth occasion the opener has passed 50 this season, the most of any play in both division of the Championship, whilst Richard Gleeson’s 5-60 on the first day set Northants on course, Gleeson adding three in the second innings to take his tally to 30 wickets in five games since coming back from injury.
“Rob’s played really well. He’s had a strong season throughout; very consistent. He’s just growing as a player and as a personality. He was particularity skilful today and hopefully he’ll get his reward with a big one.
“He’s [Gleeson] had a really strong three games, certainly last week and this week. He’s run in good pace and looks every bit a good county bowler, and who knows? I still feel he’s got a little bit more to offer.
“He’s a fine bowler. He’s come in late and is very hungry because of that, and he’s bowled very very well.”
Essex won last season’s division two title winning only six games out of 16, but remarkably despite having won seven of their 12 fixtures this season, Northants are still outsiders in the hunt for the two promotion places, needing a further two wins as well as favors from elsewhere.
Nottinghamshire were knocked off top spot for the first time in months with Worcetershire’s victory, and having looked Champions elect for most of the campaign, Northants know victory against them at Wantage Road next week could set up a three way battle in the final round.
“From having been in a bullet proof position with Worcester and ourselves winning, it’s maybe made it a little bit twitchier for them [Nottinghamshire] than it was a month ago. So we hope we can continue to make it twitchy.
“As we said since the start of the season, we wanted to be involved and have big games and we’ve managed to achieve that so roll on next week.
“I am disappointed in some respect that we’ve played pretty consistent, good cricket and we haven’t got the rewards we might have got in other year. It’s just how its been this year.”