Northants dig in to frustrate Essex on opening day

Opener Will Young personified an obdurate batting performance by Northamptonshire on the first day of their LV= Insurance County Championship match against Essex at Chelmsford.

By Martin Smith
Thursday, 28th April 2022, 8:09 pm
Luke Procter hits out on his way to a half century for Northants against Essex (Picture: Peter Short)
Luke Procter hits out on his way to a half century for Northants against Essex (Picture: Peter Short)

The New Zealander followed up his match-saving 96 against Yorkshire last week with a painstaking 63 before Northants lost a clutch of late wickets to creep to 233 for seven at the close.

Young’s 100-run partnership for the second wicket with Emilio Gay set the tone for a day of frustration for the Essex attack.

After Young became the second of Sam Cook’s two victims, the cudgels were taken up by Luke Procter, around whom Northants’ middle-order resistance was built.

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Will Young acknowledges the applause for a second successive half-century for Northants, hitting 62 against Essex (Picture: Peter Short)

The left-hander will resume this morning on 60 from 164 balls.

Essex’s decision to put Northants in appeared to have been vindicated immediately when struggling skipper Ricardo Vasconcelos edged Cook’s third ball into the slip cordon.

Thereafter, the Essex bowlers toiled on a benign strip that offered little before they finally parted Gay and Young, who dug in for a workmanlike 38-over partnership that had few frills, few thrills and even fewer chances. It became the story of the day.

It was a far cry from Northants’ calamitous visit to Chelmsford last September that resulted in the shortest match of the modern four-day era: students of the unusual will remember that it finished half-an-hour into day two.

Riob Keogh plays on off drive during his innings of 22 for Northants at Essex. Keogh is making his 100th first-class appearance for the County (Picture: Peter Short)

This time, though, the visitors passed the 45 that constituted their second-innings total then inside 20 painstaking overs; the 81 of their 2021 first innings was overtaken with the first ball after lunch in an over where Young hit Shane Snater for three fours from alternate deliveries.

Cook kept the pair in check in a seven-over opening spell in which the seamer conceded just eight runs, the only dent coming when Gay pulled him with supreme nonchalance to the boundary.

The second-wicket stand had reached three-figures when it was finally broken. Snater got one to move away from the 22-year-old left-hander Gay and Sir Alastair Cook took the catch low down to his right at first slip.

Young’s three-hour, 146-ball stay ended soon after when he shouldered arms to a ball from Cook that nipped back off the seam and trapped him lbw.

Procter and Rob Keogh put on 45 quietly and efficiently in 16 overs until the stroke of tea when Keogh prodded tentatively at a delivery from Matt Critchley that the bowler caught tumbling forward just above his boot-straps.

Paul Walter, called in to replace loanee from Northants Adam Rossington, denied permission to play against his parent club, claimed the scalp of Saif Zaib with his rarely seen medium-pacers, pinned lbw shuffling across the stumps.

Lewis McManus hung around for three-quarters of an hour for seven before he wafted at one outside off-stump from Snater and Simon Harmer pounced in front of Cook the elder at first slip to snaffle the catch.

If Cook junior was the pick of the Essex bowlers with his two wickets, then the Australian Mark Steketee chose the fourth of his six-match stint to bowl his most controlled and impressive spell since he joined at the start of the season.

The waywardness of Steketee’s first outing against Kent earlier in the month when he went for almost four runs an over was replaced by a parsimonious rpo of around 1.7. His efforts were finally rewarded when Harmer took a sharp one-handed catch at second slip to account for Tom Taylor just before stumps.