Riki Wessels puts foot down to add to sluggish Northants' agony

Northamptonshire 248 & 151 Nottinghamshire 409-8dec (Notts win by an innings and 10 runs)
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The Independent Online

The First Division experience is not proving a comfortable one for Northamptonshire, who have lost three of their first four matches and hung on for a draw at nine wickets down in the other.

Today, Nottinghamshire gave them 76 overs in which to battle for another draw at the end of a rain-affected match but it proved a task too big, bowled out for 151 in 49.1 overs.

Last season's joyous double – promotion as Second Division runners-up and victory on Twenty20 finals day – must seem a long time ago.

Peter Siddle, the Australia fast bowler, finished with 4 for 61 and Ajmal Shahzad 4 for 46 as Nottinghamshire restored order to their own campaign after a mixed beginning, climbing to fourth in the table with a second win.

But the key factor, the one that sapped Northamptonshire's morale, was a blistering 158 off 152 balls by Riki Wessels, which allowed Nottinghamshire to declare with full batting points, not to mention a lead of 161 and, because of the speed with which it happened, a full two sessions plus 30 minutes before lunch in which to measure such steel as Northamptonshire could muster.

Wessels was 78 overnight – having been dropped on 22 – and put his foot down in some style after completing a 124-ball hundred. His next 50 runs came off just 20 deliveries as the short boundary on the Fox Road side felt the full force of his venom.

In one series of hefty leg-side blows he hit five sixes in the space of seven balls against bowling from the Pavilion End, four in five balls off Andrew Hall and one off Mohammad Azharullah, before showing the longer boundary was within range too with an audacious clip over midwicket for his eighth six off Maurice Chambers.

Shahzad blasted a supplementary 36 off 25 balls as the two added 100 in just 47 deliveries before Wessels finally landed one into a fielder's hands at wide long-on, prompting the declaration.

Northamptonshire simply never established any worthwhile resistance, one batsman after another making a start but giving his wicket away. Stephen Peters, the captain, fell into a trap set by Siddle and flicked the ball off his legs straight to short square leg and the innings thereafter steadily fell into disarray, to the point that it was all over before 5pm.

At least Northamptonshire can look forward to the return of Twenty20 cricket tomorrow in the hope that it can rekindle their confidence. Ian Butler, the New Zealand seamer signed after three previous deals for overseas players fell through, will make his county debut in their Twenty20 opener against Yorkshire at Headingley and face Middlesex in the Championship at Wantage Road on Sunday.