Northants began the day brightly, rapidly moving their score from their overnight 283-7 to gain parity and with seemingly nothing doing the tenacious Gareth Batty trapped Andrew Hall lbw ending their mammoth stand. James Middlebrook then batted with the tail to collect his fifth first class hundred at a good pace. Stuart Meaker wrapped up the Northants innings, bowling Middlebrook two balls after his hundred having earlier bowled David Lucas. He again outbowled the listless Yasir Arafat and ended with 3-100. I hope its just a case of Arafat needing to acclimatise himself, because his line and length were just not on the money.
James Middlebrook celebrates his hundred
Once the Northants innings was wrapped up with their lead a handy 54 Wilson and Brown had work to do to improve on their first innings performances. To their considerable credit both of them batted well, Brown overcame a very (understandably) nervy start to make a decent 46 and Wilson batted confidently and sensibly in making 42. The pair cruised without much trouble to 90-0 before Brown was caught behind off Daggett. It will have done him the world of good to just have some time in the middle. That triggered a mini-collapse of 3-25 as Wilson and Davies followed in quick succession.
Gary Wilson was watchful in making 42
Davies got a leading edge off Daggett and Wilson was cleaned up by Rob White who was getting some decent turn on the sun-baked surface. That brought Hamilton-Brown to the crease and he looked in great nick, he almost always does. He played some great shots without taking excessive risk and as he and de Bruyn looked like taking the side to the end of the day together the largely absent Chaminda Vaas was thrown the ball and prompty bowled Hamilton-Brown with the close in sight.
Hamilton-Brown looked good, as ever, before getting out minutes before the close.
If Hamilton-Brown had been batting tomorrow morning a quick 50 in the morning session ably assisted by de Bruyn could have pushed the lead past 250 and given Surrey a sniff. However with the nightwatchman at the crease it will likely be slow going first thing and I don't think there will be enough time to force a result either way. Of course a Surrey collapse could change things, and likewise a Northants collapse later in the day would do the same, but caution will be the order of the day and I think the match will end with honours even.