Daryl Mitchell’s unbeaten half-century made it Worcestershire’s opening day at a sunny Wantage Road. Having bowled Northamptonshire out for 238, Mitchell’s 52 not out steered the visitors to 108 for 2 by the close, trailing by 130.
Having gone past 10,000 first-class runs for Worcestershire in making 120 at Derby last week, Mitchell helped Worcestershire back up their bowlers’ earlier work with a typically composed knock. He struck five boundaries in going past fifty in 78 balls.
Mitchell shared an opening stand of 77 in 14.5 over with Brett D’Oliveria as Worcestershire made bright progress after tea. But Northants responded through Nathan Buck, who took out D’Oliveria’s middle stump for 35, and Rory Kleinveldt, who pinned Tom Fell lbw for a six-ball duck.
Had Richard Levi held a diving chance when Tom Clarke had 7 six overs from the close, the day would have taken a more even feel but just two down Worcestershire held the balance of the game.
The visitors did not contest the toss on a cloudless day and after a benign first hour seemed justified in the decision with the wicket offering some assistance for the seamers.
The nastiest delivery was sent down by Jack Shantry, one that leapt off a length to take the shoulder of Richard Levi’s bat. The chance was spilt by Mitchell at second slip but Tom Kholer-Cadmore had time to turn around and complete the catch.
Rob Keogh, on his return from a finger injury, also received a decent ball. Ed Barnard got one to hold its line from a full-length and Keogh edged to Mitchell. But the other two dismissals before lunch were entirely batsman error. Max Holden, opening the batting in place of the injured Rob Newton, drove Joe Leach lazily to point for an 11-ball duck and Ben Duckett’s poor start to the season continued with a mistimed pull that brought a top-edge taken by wicketkeeper Ben Cox running back.
Alex Wakely survived a sharp chance to gully on 27 but reached 49 not out by the interval but he fell four balls into the afternoon as Northants slumped to 161 for 8 among a combination of poor strokes and skilful bowling.
Steven Crook and Adam Rossington shared 48 for the sixth wicket. But Crook was lbw for 19, Rossington tamely chipped Shantry to midwicket for 36 and Kleinveldt smashed the same bowler to extra-cover for just 9.
Northants were begging for a partnership and found one through Graeme White and Nathan Buck, who shared 69 for the ninth wicket. White was the senior partner, cutting Ed Barnard for four and driving Shantry over extra cover for six. He pulled Josh Tongue through mid-on to bring up the half-century stand - the first of the innings. He was the last man out for 47 pulling Tongue to long-leg.
Buck played his part in the alliance and slog-swept Nathan Lyon for six over long-on and made 29 before edging Joe Leach to first slip.
Northants captain Wakely said: "It’s a pretty disappointing day. They bowled really well this morning, bowled in partnerships and dried the scoreboard."