Middlebrook upstages Wagg
Graham Wagg’s last home game as a Derbyshire player ended in defeat after an impressive all-round display by James Middlebrook took Northamptonshire to a five-wicket Clydesdale Bank 40 victory.
Wagg, who is leaving the club after five seasons and is expected to join Glamorgan, took the first two wickets as the Steelbacks slipped to 76 for five before Middlebrook followed his 3-34 haul with an unbeaten 57, his highest one-day score.
Northants skipper Andrew Hall and Lee Daggett also took three wickets apiece to restrict Derbyshire to 171, of which Chesney Hughes made 55 from 62 balls, but Steelbacks were in trouble until Stephen Peters, who hit 53 not out, and Middlebrook shared an unbroken stand of 96 in 14 overs.
Hughes gave the Falcons a decent start but the rest of the batting struggled against some disciplined seam and spin bowling on a sluggish pitch at Derby..
Northants conceded only three wides and the 16 overs of spin from Middlebrook and Tom Brett cost just 61 runs, which stifled Derbyshire in mid-innings.
Hughes hit seven fours before he was neatly stumped off a quicker ball from Middlebrook, but no other batsman found the boundary until Dan Redfern glanced Daggett to fine-leg in the 31st over.
There were only 11 fours and a big six - on to the pavilion roof from Jon Clare - in the entire innings, which ended swiftly once Redfern pulled Daggett to deep square-leg in the 35th over.
Hall mopped up the tail by taking the last three wickets in seven balls at a cost of two runs, but Northants’ pursuit quickly stalled as Wagg removed both openers in the first seven overs.
Mal Loye’s lean run continued when he failed to clear mid-on and Wagg took an acrobatic return catch after Rob Newton top-edged a paddle sweep with the score on 19.
The Derbyshire total looked even more formidable when Tim Groenewald bowled Alex Wakely with one that nipped back and David Sales clipped a full toss from off-spinner Jake Needham to short midwicket.
At 40 for four, the game was slipping away from Northants, who had much to do when Hall fell to a fine diving catch by wicketkeeper Steve Adshead, but Peters and Middlebrook batted calmly to steer them home.
They wanted 60 from the last 10 overs but Wagg’s return to the attack proved a turning point.
He had conceded only 11 from his first five overs but his sixth cost 19, including a straight six over the sightscreen by Middlebrook and a free hit which Peters pulled for four.
Despite some uncertain running, the sixth-wicket pair did not look like being parted and there were three overs to spare when Northants wrapped up their fourth victory in Group B.