Tremendous campaign ends with New Road reverse

James Middlebrook was in the wickets at New RoadJames Middlebrook was in the wickets at New Road
James Middlebrook was in the wickets at New Road
Worcestershire interrupted Northamptonshire’s celebrations at New Road by becoming only the second team to beat the newly installed Division Two runners-up in the LV= County Championship this season.

A double by champions Lancashire was the only blot on Northamptonshire’s record until they were routed for 141 and beaten by 115 runs in the final match of a hugely successful campaign in which they won the Friends Life t20 trophy.

After popping the champagne corks when clinching promotion on the second afternoon, perhaps they could be forgiven one unconvincing performance before their party continues with an open-top bus parade through Northampton on Friday.

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Spinners on both sides were responsible for the quick wrap-up on a sluggish pitch that began the match helping the seamers and ended with the ball turning.

The turgid nature of the surface, as well as variation in bounce, contributed to 18 leg-before dismissals, equalling the all-time record in the County Championship.

James Middlebrook and Matt Spriegel took seven wickets between them in dismissing Worcestershire for 295 and when Northamptonshire were set a target of 257 in a day-and-a-half, they were picked off in less than three hours.

Moeen Ali’s return of 6-77 with his off-breaks gave him 28 wickets to add to his 1,375 championship runs in an outstanding season. Shaaiq Choudhry played the supporting role with 3-28.

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The most productive batting came from Worcestershire’s middle order. Ross Whiteley (56) scored his first half-century since moving from Derbyshire in July and there were more than enough runs in the bank after further flashes of potential from Tom Fell (40) and Ben Cox (34 not out).

While the seamers did less work than normal, Middlebrook got through 39 overs and finished with 4-110.

That signposted the way Worcestershire would go, although there was time for Alan Richardson to claim his 69th championship wicket of the season when Middlebrook was caught behind in the third over.

Then it was over to Moeen. Having accounted for two top-order players, David Sales edging to slip and Stephen Peters joining the list of lbws, he whipped out Spriegel and Steven Crook in three balls before going head-to-head with David Willey.

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The big-hitting all-rounder won the early joust with three sixes in crashing 26 from 14 deliveries but Moeen emphatically won the battle with a ball that turned sharply and hit the top of the off-stump.