Northants ride on quickfire Wessels
Riki Wessels smashed his best score of the season as Northamptonshire moved ever closer to their first LV= County Championship win of the summer on day two against Essex at Wantage Road.
Resuming the day on 63 for one, Northants were grateful for Wessels' 84 off 122 balls, while Rob White and South African all-rounder Andrew Hall also chipped in with 70 and 58 respectively as the hosts amassed 354.
Graham Napier was the pick of a lacklustre visiting attack, claiming figures of 4-107 from 23.5 overs as Essex toiled in the field.
Northants ended the day firmly on top with Steven Crook and David Lucas removing openers Varun Chopra and Jaik Mickleburgh to leave Essex reeling on 41 for two and trailing by 92.
After a cagey start to the day, White set his stall out in the seventh over of the day, smashing three boundaries on the way to a 74-ball half-century.
However, that was to be it for White, who fell on 70 for the second time this season after extra bounce from seamer Chris Wright saw wicketkeeper James Foster take a routine catch in the 33rd over.
Wright was back at it four balls later, sending skipper Nicky Boje back to the pavilion for a first-ball duck courtesy James Middlebrook’s superb diving catch at gully.
However, the recalled Mark Nelson steadied the ship and Wessels notched his half-century from 78 balls as Northants went in at lunch with the score at 193 for three.
Essex hit the ground running after the break with Napier immediately removing Nelson and Wessels surviving a lucky escape after being by a no-ball.
But the visitors never built on their early dominance with Wessels and Hall adding 50 for the fifth wicket before Pakistan spinner Danish Kaneria finally struck.
Hall and incoming batsmen David Willey notched Northants’ third batting point in style with the 19-year-old left-hander smashing Ryan ten Doeschate off leg stump for six as they raced past 300.
However, when veteran spinner James Middlebrook dismissed Hall for 54 and Willey fell to Napier for 30, Northants slumped from 311 for five to 354 all out.
With seven bonus points in the bank, Northants quickly set about dismissing Essex cheaply and succeeded with the last ball of the first over when Chopra edged Crook to wicketkeeper Niall O’Brien for a duck.
Essex’s cause hit further disruption when Lucas cleaned up Mickleburgh for 16 to leave Matt Walker and skipper Mark Pettini with the task of seeing out the day.
Both succeeded, finishing unbeaten on 15 and six respectively, but Essex are left with it all to do in order to avoid a three-day defeat.