Bears in complete control as County wilt

Rob Keogh completed a pair on a grim day for Northants
Rob Keogh completed a pair on a grim day for Northants
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Nottingham, Middlesex, Yorkshire, Warwick, everybody’s talking ‘bout - groundhog day.

As has been the case in the last three LV= County Championship outings, Northamptonshire will have to bat for a length of time and set fire to the formbook if they are to emerge with a share of the points against Warwickshire.

Like that trio of contests, the County took a heavy beating to the point where they were at the opposition’s mercy with the fielders visibly demoralised and those doing the bowling proving ineffective.

In excess of 159 overs in the dirt does that to teams and few others would be any different but that doesn’t alter the fact that is becoming all too regular a happening.

To labour a point, and if a report is expected to record what has taken place then unfortunately it must be so, Stephen Peters’ side, unwittingly as they’re hardly doing it on purpose, are travelling down the same path time and again.

The line-up may change but the direction games are taking stays the same.

Under par with the bat first time up, concede far too many and leave yourselves with a fiendishly difficult uphill task to try and avoid a hefty defeat.

It can’t be particularly pleasurable to play in because it certainly isn’t great to watch but no predictions will be forthcoming as to when it will change, even though there was a glimmer on the first day, as it doesn’t look like taking place anytime soon.

When Tim Ambrose sliced Maurice Chambers to second slip early in the morning - just the start the hosts needed - the visitors were still a handful of runs behind and eyeing a decent if not commanding lead.

Rikki Clarke’s arrival changed that and he took up the reins as Sam Hain crept to three figures.

The teenager reached the landmark with a glanced four off Steven Crook, becoming the youngest ever first-class centurion for his club in the process, and ground away until he missed a straight one from Matt Spriegel.

That came after Clarke’s breezy innings had ended at the hands of Stone and also the lunch break but rather than create an avenue that could be exploited, it merely gave the lower order a chance to tuck in.

Chris Woakes got to within one of his half century before driving Stone to mid-on and at that stage the lead was closing in on 150.

But the Bears’ hierarchy had no intention of calling it a day and Barker, along with Jeetan Patel and then Chris Wright, plundered plenty more against a side who, no doubt, were praying for the declaration to arrive.

It didn’t until after tea and once Barker had lofted Matt Spriegel over his head to bring up his century but when they were called in at 602-9, the lead stood at a considerable 290.

That was bad, but it was actually quite decent compared with what was to come.

In his first five overs, Woakes saw off Peters, guiding to gully, Richard Levi, caught behind down the leg side and Rob Keogh, nervously edging to second slip to complete a pair with all of this before the score had even reached 20.

James Middlebrook and Spriegel got their heads down and survived until the close but it will take a herculean effort to prevent a sixth defeat on the bounce.

On a pitch that is still generally true, they should have the ability to take a punt at this but the worrying aspect is they haven’t got the previous.