Middlebrook puts Northants in control
James Middlebrook hit his highest score for Northamptonshire to help them establish an iron grip on the LV= County Championship Division Two clash with Gloucestershire at Bristol.
The right-hander struck 109 as he and Niall O’Brien, who extended his overnight 123 to 166, took their seventh-wicket stand to 187 before being parted - which helped their team to a massive first-innings score of 557 for nine declared.
By the close of the second day, Gloucestershire had replied with 172 for seven, having been 31 for five at one stage after Jack Brooks, who ended the day on 4-30, took three wickets in the space of seven balls.
Chris Taylor and Will Gidman led a spirited recovery with a stand of 115 but the hosts trailed by 385 runs with just three wickets remaining.
Northamptonshire began the day on 381 for six, having been in trouble themselves at 125 for five, and were soon piling on the agony for a largely-inexperienced home attack.
From his overnight score of 24, Middlebrook moved confidently to a half-century off 88 balls with eight fours.
O’Brien was dropped on 147 by David Payne at long-off as he skied a delivery from Kane Williamson, but otherwise the pair made untroubled progress.
The Irishman finally perished 10 short of his career-best score, top-edging a pull off 16-year-old seamer Craig Miles and being caught at fine-leg by Jon Lewis after batting for more than five hours, facing 206 balls and hitting 20 fours and a six.
Middlebrook went on to reach three figures from 184 balls - with 12 fours - finding more solid support from David Lucas, who finished on 34 not out. The centurion fell to a catch at mid-off, driving at the off-spin of Taylor and Lee Daggett’s second-ball duck brought the declaration.
Gloucestershire’s batting problems began when Ian Cockbain was bowled shouldering arms to Lucas with the score on 15. Without addition and in the same over, Williamson fell for a duck, caught in the slips by David Sales.
Brooks then accounted for Richard Coughtrie, Alex Gidman and Jon Batty in rapid succession as the home side’s top order was blown away.
But Taylor and Will Gidman were in no mood to surrender meekly. They took the score to 61 for five at tea and then counter-attacked with relish as the ball went soft.
Taylor was first to his fifty off 78 balls, with eight fours, and Gidman’s statistics were similar when he got to his half-century off 80 deliveries, also with eight boundaries.
It was 146 for six when Taylor was caught behind cutting with no foot movement for 54 off Daggett and Brooks struck again to remove Ian Saxelby, leaving Gidman defiant on an unbeaten 72, but with only the tail to bat in the morning.