Sunday, 30 April 2017

The Northamptonshire innings - second 25 overs

The second half of the innings saw the reintroduction of Tom Milnes. The seamer must have thought Christmas had come early, when Keogh, after a composed 23, played a loose drive at a loose ball and hit it straight to Alex Hughes at extra cover.for the sort of catch that starts a catching session, before things get too serious.

To his credit, Milnes second spell was a major improvement, his first two overs going for just five and twice beating the bat. Hughes was busy at the other end, not looking overly dangerous but almost deceiving Levi with a clever slower ball. The Northamptonshire batsman, his bottom hand dominant as always, looked set for a big score and had progressed to 42 before his first six, clubbed in a familiar style over long on.

At the thirty over mark, Mendis bowled at the City End for the first time. Derbyshire had used six bowlers and each had bowled five overs at that stage, a fair division of labour, if not quality. Wakely played some classy shots, an on drive from Milnes being one for the aesthetes, while Levi reached his half century from sixty balls, sedate by his standards.

Godleman continued to rotate his bowlers and Thakor returned after two overs from Mendis at the City End. He looked to be moving more freely than when I saw him at Durham and continued to keep the runs down, though at the other end Taylor struggled and had bowled six overs for 47 as the visitors brought up the 200 in the 37th over. The batsmen worked the gaps well, though opportunities for two were not always taken, Levi being a player built more for comfort than speed. By the same token, he is the kind of player that most sides would like in the middle order and the consensus was that if he stayed to the end, Northamptonshire would come closer to 350 than 300.

With twelve overs to go, Hughes returned to the attack at the City End and with his first ball had Wakely caught at long on by Tom Milnes, a well-judged but regulation catch at this level. The skipper had played a good hand and the advent of the dangerous Adam Rossington seemed to signal a key period of play. Levi was starting to time the ball beautifully, one straight drive from Hughes bisecting the fielders at long on and long off with barely any effort.

After five leg side wides from Mendis, Rossington gave himself room and twice forced the spinner to the cover boundary as Northamptonshire entered the last ten overs in rude health at 236-4, eighteen coming from the over.

Mendis and Hughes clawed it back and Hughes bowled Rossington and continued to vary his pace well. The 250 came up with seven overs to go and Levi, on 87, remained the player who could put the total out of sight.

Mendis finished his spell with ten overs for 60, made worse by that one bad over. The difference between him and Imran Tahir, who will be with us for the second half of the season, is that he bowls the occasional bad ball, something that Tahir has largely eradicated from his game. He is a good bowler, but got little from the pitch today and depended more on changes of pace to trouble the batsmen.

Levi reached an excellent century from 104 balls and must wish he could carry this Derbyshire attack around to face every week. He will never be mistaken for an athlete, but is a very good batsman at this level and his lack of mobility isn't really an issue. Plenty of generously built batsmen have graced the game over the years and he is one of a handful in the modern era who does so.

He holed out to Wayne Madsen at deep mid wicket in the penultimate over from Shiv Thakor, but had given his side an excellent total.  Thakor completed an excellent spell by bowling White with a yorker and finishing with figures of 3-39.

Cotton and Thakor closed the innings professionally for Derbyshire, who did well to keep the visitors to 307-7, but the problem we have is evident.

While Cotton, Thakor and Mendis can be trusted to bowl a steady ten over spell, after that we have a problem. Alex Hughes did well, but you would probably want him to bowl five or six, rather than close to a full complement. The twelve overs of  Milnes and Taylor went for 86 and that profligacy is going to cost us too many games.

Nevertheless, on a wicket that looks good for batting and boundaries that are far from huge, Derbyshire could challenge that total.

More from me in the second half of the game.

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