Yorkshire are short of key players but that alone could not explain their lowest total of the season, which was all the more unexpected given that struggling Northamptonshire were beaten by an innings and 120 runs at Headingley in April.
Northamptonshire, promoted last season but already in danger of being cut adrift at the foot of the First Division, bowled out the title favourites for 136, their smallest first-innings score since Sussex dismissed them for 96 in the opening match of last season. Having lost four of their first five games, Northamptonshire will hope this signals a change in their fortunes.
Ian Butler, the Kiwi all-rounder, took four for 41 but the team were unable to capitalise on their success as they would have liked, losing half their wickets to get their noses in front as the ball swung and seamed.
This was in no small part the result of an inspired performance by the former Northamptonshire pace bowler Jack Brooks, who marked his first competitive appearance on the ground since leaving for Yorkshire by taking the first four wickets. He was watched by his parents, who remain members at Wantage Road despite their son’s desertion.
Were it not for James Middlebrook, a Yorkshire-born opening batsman who began his career at Headingley, who made 70, it might even have been Yorkshire’s day. What’s more, Middlebrook (right) was dropped twice in the slips, on 10 and 59.
Brooks, long hair kept out of his eyes by his trademark headband, enjoyed all his success at the Wantage Road end, where he took four for 14 in the space of 26 deliveries to reduce his old team-mates from 44 without loss to 90 for four.
With Joe Root and Gary Ballance playing for England and Kane Williamson required by New Zealand until the second week of July as they tour the West Indies, Yorkshire picked 20-year-old batsman Jack Leaning for his second Championship match, his first of the season. They left out Andrew Hodd to accommodate Aaron Finch, the Australian famed for his Twenty20 hitting making his Championship debut. Given the absence of Ryan Sidebottom with a hamstring injury, Tim Bresnan’s release by England to join the match after lunch was providential.
Put in when Stephen Peters won the toss, Yorkshire slumped to 45 for five inside 19 overs and were all out within 41. Four catches taken by wicketkeeper Ben Duckett and two in the slips reflected helpful conditions for bowling, although there were a good few poor shots too.
Jonny Bairstow, perceived as having only a loose grip on his place as England’s Test wicketkeeper, despatched his first two balls to the boundary but then lost his off stump in an extravagant drive at Butler, who bowled Bresnan with a ball the England all-rounder left and benefited from a couple of ugly strokes at wide balls from Andrew Gale and Adil Rashid.
Finch plundered runs to reach 34, including a cut for six off Butler, but chopped on trying to force Azharullah off the back foot. Liam Plunkett, not the worst number nine around, added a useful 25 off as many balls.
Openers Peters and Middlebrook laid down what looked like a solid platform for the home side’s reply but when Brooks had Peters caught at third slip things fell apart rather. David Sales was bowled off an inside edge, Matthew Spriegel was trapped in his crease and Rob Keogh popped up a return catch to propel Brooks to leading wicker-taker in the country with 33 so far.