At Northwood, Middlesex easily defeats Northants on a dull day

For Middlesex, Toby Roland-Jones handled the wickets

On the first day of the tournament at Merchant Taylors’ School, Middlesex’s speed attack shared the victory after dismissing Northamptonshire for 219 runs.

Despite an outstanding 49 from all-rounder Saif Zaib, Toby-Roland Jones, Tom Helm, Ethan Bamber, and Ryan Higgins each seized two wickets to ensure that the visitors were unable to add to their one batting point this season.

The hosts sent Bamber in as the nightwatchman alongside Mark Stoneman, the usual opener, and the duo batted through the final five overs with great ease to close 23 for 0 in the replay.

This was, if you will, the antidote or a day for the connoisseur of county cricket for anyone who had had enough Bazball drama from the Headingley Test. It was a day of line and length bowling with every run achieved with effort.

After winning the toss, Northamptonshire elected to bat, but scoring runs proved difficult right away. The visitors struggled to rotate the strike, which made boundaries unusual and let Middlesex control the game’s tempo. Furthermore, it was annoying for Northamptonshire because a wicket would slip whenever a batter appeared to be set.

A prime example of this was when Ricardo Vasconcelos fanned a ball from Higgins (2 for 33) through to wicketkeeper John Simpson immediately after reaching the boundary for the third time.

After signing a deal with the Steelbacks last month, Justin Broad, a German international, was taken to the crease to make his first-class debut. There was a lot of playing and missing as he and the opener Emilio Gay rode their luck, but every now and then, each broke free. Broad sliced one furiously to the fence at point while Gay unfurled one majestuous cover drive.

The turning point for Middlesex occurred when Josh de Caires received the ball for the required spinner’s over just before lunch. Fresh off a career-high 7 for 144 against Hampshire two weeks prior, he quickly outwitted Gay’s hesitant defensive prod to trap him on the crease.

The play that afternoon was sedative. Helm started off by giving Broad consecutive fours, but as the bowler got even by catching him leg before, the runs all but stopped. Although there were lengthy stretches between wickets, Northamptonshire’s batters had trouble moving the game along.

Sam Whiteman nicked Higgins to the on-deck Stephen Eskinazi, who had been brought up, and the catcher left the field right away. The Middlesex white-ball captain may now bat further down the order than initially anticipated after learning that he had injured a finger.

Before being bowled by Roland-Jones (2 for 49), Rob Keogh needed to consume 40 balls to get to 12, at which point he was caught behind by Luke Procter.

When de Caires shelled the nook at first slip, Middlesex, who were then on the verge of defeat, gave wicketkeeper Lewis McManus a life shortly after tea.

The error was expensive because Zaib, who is more expansive, was able to drive the ball more convincingly than his teammates higher in the lineup since the Kookaburra ball had become soft. McManus was an excellent foil for Zaib because of this.

The new ball was struck in poorly lit conditions. Bamber’s initial ball spit off a length and dealt Zaib a terrible blow on the hand.

After a brief interruption due to poor lighting, he soon recovered until Bamber trapped McManus, the third batsman for Northamptonshire to be out for that total, lbw for 24.

Helm successfully eliminated Tom Taylor with a short ball, but when the all-rounder hooked consecutive balls over the ropes for six, shots that made little sense in light of everything that had come before, Helm’s attempts to catch Zaib similarly in two minds failed spectacularly.

The blows increased the 200, but Bamber bowled Zaib one short of what would have been a fantastic 50, and the innings was then halted by a hilarious run-out.

Middlesex 23 for 0 trail Northamptonshire 219 (Zaib 49) by 196 runs