Middlebrook shows all-round ability on rain-affected afternoon

James Middlebrook continued to impress for promotion-chasing Northamptonshire on day three of their LV= County Championship Division Two clash with Kent.
James Middlebrook followed up his six wickets in Kent's innings with an unbeaten 87 on day threeJames Middlebrook followed up his six wickets in Kent's innings with an unbeaten 87 on day three
James Middlebrook followed up his six wickets in Kent's innings with an unbeaten 87 on day three

Northamptonshire ended the rain-affected day’s play on 183 for one from 47 overs in their first innings, as Middlebrook made his highest score of the season, hitting an unbeaten 87 from 134 balls to eclipse the 84 he scored against Leicestershire in June.

It was a fine batting performance from the 36-year-old all-rounder, who had recorded career-best bowling figures of six for 78 on Wednesday.

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Home captain Stephen Peters was also in fine form with the bat as he posted a stylish half-century, his fifth of the season, before falling for 68 off the bowling of Mark Davies.

Northamptonshire, who started the game in the second promotion position, 21 points ahead of Essex, will continue their chase for maximum batting bonus points with Middlebrook and David Sales - on 25 not out - at the crease.

David Ripley’s men had begun day three in a sticky position after Kent, who finished a weather-beaten first day on 60 for one, racked up an impressive 418.

That led Northamptonshire to employ a safety-first option early on, with Peters and Middlebrook starting in secure fashion, fending off opening bowlers Davies and Charlie Shreck.

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Shreck was keeping it tight, registering two maidens in as many overs as Kent attempted to get an early breakthrough.

But they were unable to make any inroads before the rain struck 25 minutes into the day, with Northamptonshire 15 without loss after seven overs.

Play eventually resumed four and a half hours later, with the home side keen to get on with it as their promotion battle with Essex intensifies.

Davies and Shreck continued to limit the flow as the batsmen took time to find their rhythm, seeing the ball beat the bat on several occasions.

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However, once they got into their stride, the home batsmen treated the County Ground fans to some fine shots, Peters particularly impressive as he registered his 64th first class half-century from 82 balls.

Middlebrook also made his way to 50 from the same number of deliveries as Northamptonshire started to step on the accelerator and Kent began to toil.

Peters eventually provided them with some respite, finding the safe hands of Daniel Bell-Drummond to reward Davies for his efforts.

But Middlebrook continued to plough on alongside Sales as Northamptonshire put themselves in a good position for the extra points they desire on the final day.