Collingwood keeps up first-ball tradition

Northants 273-3 v Durham
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The Independent Online
If neither county rose to any great heights on their opening day of the championship, it was not to be wondered at in such uncharitably cold weather. One player who will remember the day was Paul Collingwood, who became the second player in two days, after Middlesex's James Hewitt, to take a wicket with his first ball in first-class cricket.

The players struggled all day in the teeth of a fierce easterly wind after Mike Roseberry had put Northamptonshire into bat in the vague hope that his seam bowlers might have used the damp conditions to their advantage. There had been no play on Thursday.

Roseberry will not have been entirely unhappy at the way things turned out either. His 21-year-old fast bowler, Melvyn Betts, starting his third season with Durham with the modest tally of 128 wickets to his name, not only took 4 for 99, his best figures, but also showed that his control has greatly improved.

He has a sprinter's approach to the wicket over 20 paces, he bowls from reasonably close to the stumps and for a time more than justified the three slips and a gully his captain gave him. Bowling downwind for the most part he raised a lively pace and moved the ball away from the right- handers.

In the latter part of the morning, when Northamptonshire lost three wickets in 212 balls, he found an excellent partner in Michael Foster, a 23-year- old all-rounder whose career has already taken him from Yorkshire to Northamptonshire and on to Durham. Yesterday, he was celebrating the award of a two-year contract with Durham.

He has a strong pair of shoulders and also bowls from close to the stumps, moving the ball towards the slips at just about medium pace. He and Betts shared those first three wickets and might well have had more.

Northamptonshire were given a solid start by Richard Montgomerie and Alan Fordham, who put on 69, Fordham contributing two massive pulls for six. These two and Mal Loye were then out in quick succession before Rob Bailey and Russell Warren steadied the innings with a stand of 68.

Roseberry was strangely reluctant to bring back Betts after lunch, but when he did so Warren drove loosely and was caught in the gully. Earlier Collingwood had marked his first-class debut with a fine catch two-handed to his left at second slip which accounted for Montgomerie.

At 176 for 4, he came on to bowl and with his first ball yorked David Capel. Two runs later Bailey drove Betts tamely to mid-off but two dropped slip catches, excusable in this temperature, allowed Kevin Curran and Tony Penberthy to give the Northamptonshire score a more respectable look.

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