Northamptonshire 396 Australia 312-9 dec: Steven Smith out for a duck as Australia struggle again

 

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The Independent Online

Steven Smith’s first innings since he was confirmed as Australia’s next Test captain ended in a sixth-ball duck as the tourists narrowly avoided the humiliation of being asked to follow on by a Second Division county fielding a second-string bowling attack.

The tourists, who surrendered the Ashes to England in a crushing fourth-Test defeat at Trent Bridge recently, had been eight down for 180, still 117 short of the follow-on point in a match reduced to two days after Northamptonshire had punished them in the field by making 396 on Saturday.

They were rescued in the end by fast bowler Pat Cummins, who enhanced his chances of being called up for the fifth Test at The Oval on Thursday with a career-best unbeaten 82, and spinner Nathan Lyon, with whom he put on 98 for the ninth wicket as the county side paid for dropping chances off both.

Cummins was missed at first slip before he had scored and Lyon had a life when he had made 17, both to straightforward chances. The contest, which ended in a draw with the Australians nine down for 312, hardly provided the preparation they wanted ahead of the final Test, where Michael Clarke will captain the side for the last time as they attempt to salvage some pride.

 

Smith had been out to the 12th ball of the day, edging the former England Lions pace bowler Maurice Chambers to be caught behind. Australia had not added to the score at which opener David Warner fell to Chambers on Saturday evening and stumbled to 87 for 5 before lunch.

The county side, who have back-to-back matches in the Royal London One-Day Cup today and tomorrow, could have selected a much stronger bowling attack but chose to leave out David Willey, Mohammad Azharullah, Ollie Stone and South African all-rounder Rory Kleinveldt. Yet the Australians struggled anyway and Shaun Marsh, caught at third slip, provided trialist Richard Gleeson with his maiden first-class wicket.

Adam Voges was caught at second slip as Northamptonshire’s all-rounder Steven Crook followed his career-best 142 not out on Saturday by taking a wicket with his first ball. Shane Watson, almost inevitably, fell leg before wicket, this time to Ben Sanderson, a non-contract seam bowler.  Crook also accounted for wicketkeeper Peter Nevill and seamer Peter Siddle.

Mitchell Marsh, who is expected to be recalled by Australia at The Oval, followed his 4 for 56 with the ball by hitting 11 fours and a six in his 68 before being bowled off an inside edge as Gleeson claimed his second success.

When Siddle was eighth out, it seemed inevitable the follow-on target would be missed but Australian blushes were spared as Cummins and Lyon made the county pay for their mistakes in the field.

Cummins, who would have provided Gleeson with another scalp had Josh Cobb, the Northamptonshire captain, not put him down, more than doubled his runs tally in first-class games. He completed his maiden first-class half-century, pushing the single off 17-year-old left-arm spinner Saif Zaib that avoided the follow-on, and later lofted a six off the youngster.

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