Northants close in on top two as Sanderson and Berg prove too hot for Sussex to handle
Northants moved up to third place in Group 3 of the LV= Insurance County Championship thanks to their stunning innings and 120-run win over Sussex at the County Ground.
And with top two Lancashire and Yorkshire both being involved in rain-hit draws, it means David Ripley's men are just 18 points off the top two with the group at the halfway stage.
Seam bowling duo Ben Sanderson and Gareth Berg were the bowling stars of the show against Sussex, claiming 19 of the 20 visitors' wickets to fall.
Sanderson bagged five wickets in both innings to end with match figures of 10 for 99, the third time he has managed that feat, while Berg followed up his five wickets in Sussex's first effort of 106 all out with four more to finish with a career-best nine for 90.
Between them, Sanderson and Berg ended with remarkable match figures of 19 for 189, with Tom Taylor's dismissal of Jack Carson to ensure Sussex were dismissed for 215 in the second innings the only blot on the Sanderson-Berg monopoly.
It was a dominant performance and victory for Northants, who secured the win despite Saturday's third day being completely washed out by rain.
Saif Zaib's impressive maiden first-class century for the club was the backbone of Northants' 441 for nine, and the Sussex batsmen then had no answer to accurate seam and swing bowling of veteran pair Sanderson and Berg.
“The game plan is very simple for us, we always just smash it at the wickets and it paid off," said Berg.
“If we find the edges then great, as we are catching them at the moment, but it is a simple game plan."
Berg is relishing the chance to get out playing cricket regularly again.
Now 40, Berg joined the County on loan towards the end of the 2019 season and then put pen to paper on a two-year deal.
The first 12 months of that were severely hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, with his appearances for the club limited accordingly, but the summer of 2021 has so far seen an uninterrupted season, and Berg is enjoying himself.
“This is 15 months of hard work but it does help finding form again and I am back to where I was about four years ago," said the former Hampshire man.
“Me and Ben are very similar in what we do. We try and hit that off stump and nibble it about and are good with the economy as well.”
Sanderson was delighted with his performance as well as the win, especially as it came off the back of the previous weekend's heartbreaking one-run loss to Yorkshire at Headingley.
“It was massive for us to get a win this round after the disappointment of losing by one run," said the 32-year-old.
"It was huge for us to come to this game and dominate it for three days and get the win.”
Sussex coach Ian Salisbury endured a miserable return to his home town, and he laid the blame for the County Ground hammering at the feet of his batsmen.
“I don’t like losing, and we had our pants pulled down here," said Salisbury.
“Fair play to their two lads with 19 wickets between them. They hit the top of off really well which outside of Ollie Robinson we didn’t do well enough.
“You can’t get bowled out for 106 and barely 200. There weren’t too many demons in the pitch second time around.
“Yes, they bowled well but you have to recognise the two bowlers you have to get through. They aren’t bowling 90mph or mystery but just good honest bowlers.
"Did we sell our wickets dearly enough? From the sidelines it didn’t like we did."
Northants are without a Championship match this week.
They return to red ball action on Thursday, May 20, when they host leaders Lancashire at Wantage Road.