Sales leads the assault

David Sales and Russell Warren contributed valuable half-centuries as the Second Division leaders Northamptonshire established a strong position against their fellow promotion contenders Gloucestershire at Wantage Road yesterday.

David Sales and Russell Warren contributed valuable half-centuries as the Second Division leaders Northamptonshire established a strong position against their fellow promotion contenders Gloucestershire at Wantage Road yesterday.

Attempting their fifth Championship victory in a row, Northamptonshire closed in good shape on 282 for 5 from 112 overs with two batting points secured. Warren (61) and Tony Penberthy (42 not out) boosted the home side with a purposeful 95-run partnership in the latter stages of the day, after Sales hammered a six and seven fours in his fluent 55.

The openers Matthew Hayden and Adrian Rollins gave the hosts a solid platform, posting 82 in 30 overs once Hayden had unsurprisingly opted to bat first on a dry pitch likely to offer increasing help to the spinners.

The skipper Mark Alleyne and John Lewis took the new ball for Gloucestershire in the absence of Mike Smith and Ian Harvey, but the makeshift pair rarely threatened and it was only when Martyn Ball joined the attack with his tidy off-breaks that Northamptonshire found themselves pegged back.

He made the first breakthrough when Hayden (41) aimed a sweep which looped off bat and pad to the wicketkeeper Jack Russell, and at the other end the slow left-armer Tom Cotterell bowled Jeff Cook to end an unconvincing stay of 11 overs.

Rollins grafted his way to 49 in three-and-a-quarter hours, facing 180 balls, but he missed out on a half-century as Lewis nipped one back to trap him leg before pushing forward.

Sales moved into his stride with an effortless pull for six off Lewis, and cantered to an impressive 50 off 71 balls with Warren lending solid support in a fourth-wicket stand worth 62.

The first delivery of a new spell from Ball accounted for Sales, bowled through the gate, and Northamptonshire only secured their first bonus point in the 83rd over as Alleyne manipulated his limited resources imaginatively.

But Warren and Penberthy shifted the balance back in Northamptonshire's favour during the final session of a competitive day's play. Warren drove Jeremy Snape through extra cover to complete a watchful 50 from 133 balls, and the second new ball - taken as soon as it became available - failed to break the partnership immediately.

Gloucestershire's persistence was eventually rewarded 10 minutes before the close when Warren tamely holed out at mid-off after a patient stay of just over three hours.

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