Saif Zaib and Ben Curran made fifties as Northamptonshire enjoyed a good opening day against Derbyshire at Wantage Road in the Specsavers County Championship. Zaib’s 57 and Curran, with 51, steered Northants to 255 before Derbyshire were reduced to 60 for 2 at the close.
Curran, on his home debut playing his third first-class match, initially gave Northants a solid start having been asked to bat first. He looked in very good order with positive defence and some attractive strokes, cutting and driving Hardus Viljoen either side of point. Twice his positivity got the better of him with loose prods outside off but he survived to lunch on 40 not out.
He was the most fluent of the Northants batsman in the morning session as Luke Procter was trapped lbw by Tony Palladino for 1 and Ricardo Vasconcelos edged the same bowler to third slip for 3. Alex Hughes also removed Richard Levi, who slapped to extra-cover having lifted Hughes twice over his head for boundaries on his way to 25.
After lunch, Curran went past fifty for the first time in 98 balls with eight boundaries but fell in poor fashion, chipping Palladino to point, and the dismissal prompted a terrible middle-order collapse as Northants slid from 115 for 3 to 149 for 7.
Hughes nipped one back to bowl Adam Rossington for a pleasant 35 before Josh Cobb played an abominable slap to mid-on. A Hughes’ away-swinger bowled Brett Hutton for 16 before Viljoen produced a sharp bumper that hurried debutant Charlie Thurston into gloving a hook behind to fall for 20.
At 170 for 8, it appeared that Northants were to be rolled over but Zaib played carefully and found excellent resistance from the lower order, compiling a careful 42 with Nathan Buck for the ninth wicket.
Buck fell to a splendid catch at third-man by Ravi Rampaul and the innings should have been wrapped up for 216 when Ben Sanderson was dropped by Gary Wilson at second slip.
Sanderson went on to block out 22 balls in total and Zaib took full advantage. He paddle-swept Viljoen for six over long leg before pulling the same bowler down the ground for four. A fine strike over extra-cover brought another six and a third maximum - a slog sweep over deep-square off Wayne Madsen - brought a second batting bonus point and Zaib’s first fifty of the summer in 83 balls.
With 85 added for the final two wickets, Northants total of 255 was most unexpected. And when they found two wickets in the 17 overs Derbyshire had to face before the close, the home side took control.
Hutton caught Billy Godleman on the crease to win an lbw decision before Sanderson had Madsen caught behind for a 10-ball duck. And had Curran held Tom Lace at fourth slip to the penultimate ball of the day, it would have capped the day nicely for the home side.