Newton shines amid showers
Rob Newton struck an unbeaten half-century to put Northamptonshire in control on a rain-affected first day of their top-of-the-table LV= County Championship Division Two clash against Middlesex at Wantage Road.
After the weather delayed the start for over three hours, Newton hit 66 not out, including eight fours, as leaders Northants closed on 145 for three.
Former Northants seamer Steven Crook took two wickets and the hosts could have lost further scalps if it had not have been for two catches being taken off no-balls from Toby Roland-Jones.
Middlesex won the toss and chose to field but persistent rain in the morning forced the start to be delayed until 2.20pm, meaning 34 overs were lost.
The visitors came into this vital match 22 points behind their opponents and 22 ahead of third-placed Gloucestershire, but with a game in hand on both.
They struck early as Tim Murtagh collected his 64th championship wicket of the season in the third over when he forced Stephen Peters to edge to wicketkeeper Josh Simpson.
Ollie Rayner then took a fantastic one-handed catch to his right at second slip after a drive by Kyle Coetzer, on 12, only to find Roland-Jones had over-stepped.
On-loan Scotland batsman Coetzer, who is making his home debut, made it to 22 before he was again caught by Rayner at second slip, this time off a legitimate delivery by Crook.
Alex Wakely was to make only 14 before throwing his wicket away by chipping Crook straight to Middlesex captain Chris Rogers at extra-cover.
Newton then survived a scare on 38 when he was held by Rogers at mid-off from another illegitimate Roland-Jones delivery as Northants made it to tea on 113 for three.
A few minutes after the players came off, rain began to fall again but thankfully it stopped before they were due to return.
Newton completed his half-century with the first ball of the evening session by pulling Rayner for four through square-leg.
Infuriatingly, after a single over had been bowled, the heavens opened once more to cause a further delay.
After the rain abated, Newton returned to comfortably see out the day, with David Sales also surviving the fading light to close on 26.