Middlebrook century powers Northants
Stand-in opener James Middlebrook struck a magnificent century as Northamptonshire dominated the opening day of their LV= County Championship match against Gloucestershire at Wantage Road.
Middlebrook, who stepped into the breach in place of the injured Rob Newton, hit a superb 121 off 204 balls, smashing 17 fours, as Northants closed in a strong position on 302 for four.
Scotland international Kyle Coetzer finished unbeaten on 81 from 211 deliveries, with Gloucestershire’s bowlers toiling away in the heat as the hosts piled on the runs.
Northants won the toss and chose to bat in gloriously sunny conditions; Stephen Peters and Middlebrook took full advantage by putting on 79 for the first wicket.
Peters made a composed 44 before he was sent packing in the fourth over before lunch when Ian Saxelby’s delivery clattered into his stumps.
The hosts resumed after lunch on 85 for one, and Middlebrook went on to complete his half-century off 102 balls with a four through midwicket off Will Gidman.
The veteran piled on another 134 runs for the second wicket along with Coetzer as the hosts looked set to build a big score.
Middlebrook went on to complete his eighth first-class century and his fourth for Northants off 156 deliveries by crashing a poor Ed Young delivery to the square-leg boundary.
He then went past his previous best score for Northants of 109 - made against Gloucestershire at Bristol in May last year - as the hosts reached tea looking dominant on 200 for one.
Middlebrook’s brilliant innings finally ended in the eighth over of the evening when he chipped Gloucestershire captain Alex Gidman to former New Zealand international Hamish Marshall at extra cover.
That meant he fell just six runs short of his career-best score of 127, which came for Essex against Middlesex at Lord’s in June 2007.
Coetzer, however, stuck around to reach a patient fifty off 144 balls by hammering a four through mid-on off Young.
Gloucestershire’s beleaguered attack unsurprisingly immediately took the second new ball when it became available after 80 overs.
The decision paid off three overs later when David Sales was well caught by Ian Cockbain at point off Will Gidman for 17.
The visitors managed to claim one more wicket with the final ball of the day when Alex Wakely played Will Gidman on to his stumps after he plundered 24.