227 behind on first innings, Northants pulled off a remarkable recovery to secure a draw against Warwickshire. Adam Rossington (135 not out) and Luke Procter (112 not out) batted through the final day. Their seventh wicket stand of exactly 200 took Northants to 507-6 by the end of what turned out to be a long day without reward for the Warwickshire bowlers.
The draw will feel more like a win for Northants. Nevertheless, when it comes to qualifying for the final of the Bob Willis Trophy, this stalemate means that both teams already have, maybe not a mountain but certainly a large hill to climb.
At the end of the second day of this match, Warwickshire were no doubt optimistic that they would achieve a win in under three days. By the conclusion of day four, they had learned the hard lesson that optimism is fine so long as you don’t get your hopes up.
Northants will be delighted to have saved a match that looked lost. The resilience they displayed should serve them well in Division One of the Championship next year.
Warwickshire toiled hard throughout the day but, with the exception of an early spell from Tim Bresnan, their bowling offered little challenge once Rossington and Procter got settled in.
With Olly Stone absent getting a scan on a sore side, the pace bowling was in the hands of the ex-Yorkshire trio of Bresnan, Olly Hannon-Dalby and Will Rhodes plus the non-Yorkshire version of Ryan Sidebottom. Sidebottom, who missed most of last season with injury, looked to be short of match bowling, leaking runs at more than five an over.
As for spin, it was difficult not to notice the absence of Jeetan Patel, officially Warwickshire’s overseas player for the season but now taking steps into his next career by coaching with England.
Warwickshire will have to learn to live without Patel but there is no obvious successor. This was just the sort of pitch, pretty dead but with some slow turn, where, for a decade, he has toiled away, relentlessly working his way through opposition batting order.
Alex Thomson has potential as an all round cricketer, but as a front line spinner in red ball cricket he looks to have much to learn. Rob Yates showed another string to his bow by sending down some off-spin, which was tidy but hardly deadly. Even Tim Bresnan tried an over of spin at the end of the day, but it was all in vain.
Rossington and Procter, both compact and well organised batsmen, spent a trouble free and chanceless day at the crease. Rossington’s hundred was the seventh of his career. His 135 was made off 399 balls with 17 fours. Procter, the ideal support man, finished on 112 off 234 balls with 19 boundaries. It was only Procter’s fourth hundred in his 150th first class innings and his first three figure score for Northants.
Adam Rossington is that rarity, a three dimensional cricketer. Not only is he a highly competent wicketkeeper, but as a captain he last year took his team from the bottom of Division Two of the Championship up to promotion. And as a batsman, he can be relied on to score valuable middle order runs. He has a sound defence and a good range of workmanlike shots.
Rossington’s opposite number as captain, Will Rhodes, also has triple dimensions to his game, combining the captaincy with opening the batting and, in this match at least, having to bowl plenty of overs. Whilst captaincy may have seemed easy for the first two days of the match, as the Bears held a firm grasp, Rhodes has discovered the tougher side of leadership in the second half.
With the completion of the first round of matches, the Bob Willis Trophy is now launched on its way. On the evidence of this match, it will be keenly contested with no quarter asked or given.