|Specsavers County Championship Division Two, County Ground, Northampton (day two):|
|Worcestershire 186: Leach 53*, Moeen 42; Hutton 6-57 Sanderson 4-13|
|Northamptonshire 376: Pretorius 111, Wakely 102, Keogh 53; Parnell 3-65, Moeen 3-126|
|Worcestershire (2 pts) trail Northants (6 pts) by 148 runs|
Northamptonshire’s new signing, South Africa international Dwaine Pretorius, and former captain Alex Wakely both hit centuries as out-of-form Worcestershire were made to suffer at Wantage Road.
Resuming on 140-3, Pretorius replaced Nathan Buck, who retired hurt after being hit on the head the night before.
But the pair added 129, Wakely making 102, followed by a ton from Pretorius, who made 111 as the hosts reached 376.
Ben Sanderson then took 4-13 in nine overs as the Pears slumped to 42-4.
The only consolation for the visitors is that they still have Moeen Ali at the crease, on 10 not out, alongside Joe Leach on four not out.
England all-rounder Moeen has so far lasted 35 balls and looked a lot more assured, without finding the boundary – and he now has two days ahead of him to find his touch again and maybe save this game.
Sanderson struck three times in 13 deliveries to remove Daryl Mitchell, Championship debutant Jack Haynes and Australian Callum Ferguson. He then completed a pair for Alex Milton, who lasted seven balls longer than his first-innings golden duck.
The day’s main drama came before play began, as both sides made injury-enforced changes.
Northants were given dispensation to bring in Zimbabwean Kolpak signing Blessing Muzarabani as a concussion replacement for for Buck, who had been hit by Josh Tongue off the third ball of the final over on Sunday.
But Tongue himself did not take the field either, having been ruled out for the rest of this match – and possibly the season – with a side strain.
That meant the unusual sight of a replacement bowler, Wayne Parnell, bowling the first three balls of the day to a replacement batsman, Pretorius, to complete the over started by Tongue the day before.
It initially worked out better for the hosts as Pretorius, badly dropped off Moeen on 25 by Leach at mid-off, went on to reach the fifth first-class century of his career.
But, from Northants being 257-3 at lunch, the Pears at least fought back well a bowler down as they took the last seven wickets for just 107, starting with the loss of Wakely after his first century of the summer.
Ed Barnard and Leach bowled with spirit to set up the platform for Moeen to take three late wickets with his off-spin, after two bizarre overs of friendly medium pace earlier proved unsuccessful.
Northants centurion Alex Wakely told BBC Radio Northampton:
“It was one of those perfect days of Cricket when we did everything we set out to do. We knew that if we batted a session the game would be in our hands and that’s what we did.
“It was great batting with Dwaine. He’s a stroke maker and hits the ball so hard so he complimented me well. They were a bowler down and we made the most of it.
“It felt great. I do feel like a different person. I’ve just been trying to go back to basics and see the ball and play it.”
“We’ve strung two bad days together so we’ve got an uphill task from here but it’s one we’ve got to be prepared to take on.
“It’s a good wicket to bat on but Ben Sanderson’s spell was incredible. It was a tough period for us. But there’s still a lot of batting to come and we bat all the way down.
“We’ve got to aim to try and get up to what they made in their first innings and if we can set a number, the ball is starting to spin and we’ve got an international spinner.”