Classy Keogh century leaves Northants on top against Gloucestershire

Rob Keogh's century turned the Northamptonshire innings around against GloucestershireRob Keogh's century turned the Northamptonshire innings around against Gloucestershire
Rob Keogh's century turned the Northamptonshire innings around against Gloucestershire
Rob Keogh and Gareth Berg rescued Northamptonshire with a century stand for the eighth wicket to give their side the edge against Gloucestershire at Wantage Road.

The pair came together with Northants stumbling towards a sizeable first-innings deficit after James Bracey’s hundred had engineered the visitors’ recovery to 223 all out.

Wicketkeeper Bracey showcased his all-round skills with five dismissals as Gloucestershire reduced their fellow LV= Insurance County Championship Division One newcomers to 129 for seven in reply.

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But Keogh, who compiled his 12th first-class ton before falling for 113, shared a partnership of 137 with Berg (66) to guide Northants to 288 – and there was still time to make inroads second time around, with the West Country side closing on five for one, a deficit of 60.

Resuming on 77 not out overnight, Bracey found a capable ally in Naseem Shah – the Pakistan international frustrating the County bowlers while his partner steered the total towards 200.

Successive cover boundaries off Ben Sanderson brought Bracey his century and he followed that up with a savage six over long-off, prompting Naseem (19) to start cutting loose at the other end.

A series of productive blows against Keogh extended the ninth-wicket partnership to 80 before the spinner finally got his man, Emilio Gay judging a skier perfectly to take the diving catch at mid-off.

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Bracey holed out to Nathan Buck in the next over – but he was soon back in the thick of the action, donning the gloves to take a thin edge from Ricardo Vasconcelos in the third over of Northants’ reply.

That was the first of a trio of early wickets for Ryan Higgins (4-68), who then collected two in three balls as Ben Curran and Saif Zaib fell to slip catches to leave the home side wobbling at 24 for three.

Gay (18) appeared to have weathered the storm, only to depart on the stroke of lunch and, despite losing a further three wickets in the afternoon, Northamptonshire rattled along at a lively four an over.

Bracey accounted for all three, two of them sharp low catches to dismiss Lewis McManus (15) and Tom Taylor (0), but Berg was reprieved when Higgins’ no-ball nullified his mistimed pull into midwicket’s hands.

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The veteran all-rounder took full advantage with some bold strokeplay, turning the tide as he and Keogh got on top of the bowling and shepherded their side beyond Gloucestershire’s total.

Keogh went to three figures with an all-run four off Higgins and – although a misjudged sweep off Zafar Gohar eventually accounted for Berg – he advanced to 113 before Ben Charlesworth had him caught in the slips.

It was a great day for Keogh, who was full of praise for batting partner Berg.

“With the lead they had, their tails were up and Bergy came out and played unbelievably,” said Keogh.

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"He had a little bit of fortune with the wicket off the no-ball and he made them pay. I don’t think he wanted to bowl because it was too cold!

“He took a lot of pressure off me, he was almost the main run-scorer in that partnership. My job was just to bat and be patient and a soon as my time came to hit a boundary, I managed to get it away.

“I’m disappointed with how I got out, it was a bit of a lazy, tired shot and I’d like to have gone on and seen through tonight.

“But overall we’re pleased – we’ve got a 60-run lead and taking that wicket tonight really gives us pole position going into day three.”