Warwickshire 265 and 180-4 beat Northamptonshire 256 and 187, by 6 wickets
Warwickshire, set 179 to win, got home by six wickets, largely thanks to a first hundred for the Bears by Will Rhodes who shared an unbroken stand of 86 with Matt Lamb. After a match that had see-sawed back and forth, it was almost an anti-climax when Northants failed to mount a final challenge.
When, just before lunch, both Ian Bell and Jonathan Trott fell to Ben Sanderson, Northants looked to have an excellent chance of snatching a win. After the interval, Sam Hain added 50 with Rhodes but batting was quite a struggle. When Hain was caught at slip off Luke Proctor, 85 were still needed.
The stand by Rhodes and Lamb finally tilted the match Warwickshire’s way but, until 30 or so were needed, it was still a tense contest. Rhodes pulled, cut and drove important boundaries, his selection of the ball to hit getting better as his innings progressed. Lamb played his part, he and Rhodes taking 11 off a Rob Keogh over and bringing up the 150.
After that, it was plain sailing and when Rhodes hit Josh Cobb over mid-on took Warwickshire home and reached his own 100.
Ben Sanderson’s excellent effort of taking 3-33 in 16 probing overs proved to be in vain.
Going back to the start of the day, the match had been delicately poised. Northants, at 160-7, were only 151 ahead of Warwickshire. But both sides were aware that the pitch was offering inconsistent bounce that would make any significant fourth innings target tough to attain.
The sun was shining and the flags blowing gently in a light breeze as Northants resumed.
Doug Bracewell played and missed against Olly Stone and Chris Wright six times in the first three overs. Bearing in mind that he was dropped last evening at slip by Jonathan Trott, he was certainly riding his luck – until, that is, he only half left one from Stone outside off stump and edged to Tim Ambrose. Brett Hutton took over from Bracewell in the playing and missing department so it was no surprise when Chris Wright knocked out his off stump.
Rob Keogh had done his best to keep the scoreboard moving but, with only last man Ben Sanderson for company, he swung a short ball from Olly Stone down to long leg where Henry Brookes took a well-judged catch. He was gone for 29 and Northants were all out for 187, leaving Warwickshire with a target of 179 to win.
Both yesterday and today, Olly Stone bowled with real pace. He finished with 5-49 against his old club. Chris Wright was not far behind him with 3-58.
Northants desperately needed an early breakthrough and Ben Sanderson obliged, getting Dom Sibley to spoon a soft catch to square leg to depart for just two. Warwickshire’s opening pairing of Sibley and Will Rhodes has palpably failed to deliver so far this season, their average partnership struggling to reach double figures. Their stands in this match were nought and six, thanks to a double failure from Sibley.
Ian Bell started like a man who should have visited the County Championship sponsors but survived the first few probing overs from Bracewell and Sanderson, a cover drive off the former being a typical Bell shot. But with lunch approaching, the persistent Sanderson got a double reward – first Bell for 14 and then Trott for 1, both lbw to good length balls that did enough to beat the bat.
At 44-3, with another 135 needed, the chicken salad probably didn’t go down too well at the home dining table.
Then came the gradual shift in the balance of the game in the afternoon as Rhodes received the support he needed from first Hain and then Lamb.
Overall, this was an excellent game of cricket played on a pitch that offered a little to everyone. Northants can feel disappointed that in the end they took so little from the match. Warwickshire sail on at the top of the table with their promotion hopes enhanced.