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COUNTY CHAMPIONSHIP: James Harris grabs five wickets for Middlesex while debutant Ethan Bamber takes maiden first class victim – but 140 from Northants’ Ricardo Vasconcelos makes visitors toil

PUBLISHED: 18:26 19 August 2018

Middlesex played Northants at Wantage Road in the County Championship. CREDIT @laythy29

Middlesex played Northants at Wantage Road in the County Championship. CREDIT @laythy29

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Middlesex’s James Harris grabbed five wickets on day one of his side’s County Championship match at Wantage Road as Northants ended on 332-8.

It was the 15th time Harris had achieved such a haul in his career, with his efforts helping to steer the momentum of the match back towards the visitors from NW8.

Earlier, the home side’s Ricardo Vasconcelos hit an excellent 140 off 210 balls with 20 fours, before debutant Ethan Bamber finally grabbed his maiden first class wicket by bowling the left handed bat.

Middlesex had toiled in the afternoon session after the 20-year-old Johannesburg-born Portuguese passport holder reached three figures off 161 balls with 14 fours as he guided the home side to their first batting bonus point – and only their tenth this summer – to finish on three in total on Sunday.

It was the precocious former South African U19 left-handed batsman’s first ton for the club, before he fell with the score on 273-5.

Former Seaxe Steven Crook was trapped for 31 by the evergreen Tim Murtagh with the score on 301-6 – however, Harris picked up his fourth wicket of the day after he bowled Rory Kleinveldt for seven, who departed when he played around the ball at 312-7.

The very next ball he had Nathan Buck out, caught by Eailing-born wicketkeeper Robbie White for a golden duck.

Brett Hutton fended off Harris’ hat-trick ball but it was a well-deserved achievement by the former Glamorgan man who ended the day with figures of 21-4-74-5.

Hutton, the Doncaster-born former Notts bowler, ended the third session on 14 not out, with partner Saif Zaib unbeaten on 21, as Middlesex plot to remove the pairing before too long on Monday morning.

Northants had been boosted by 41 from Vasconcelos’ South African colleague Richard Levi before the wily Murtagh – one of five Test cricketers in the Middlesex side – had him caught by Dawid Malan, after the 30-year-old miscued a pull shot to mid on with the score on 210-4 as they reached 232-4 at tea.

The wicket followed Harris grabbing his third of the day when he snaffled captain Alex Wakely, caught behind by wicketkeeper White for 18 at 131-3.

Both sides were glad to return to red ball cricket and would have been glad to see the back of the T20 Blast with the Seaxes finishing rock-bottom of the southern group, while Northants ended the short format of the game propping up the northern table..

Unsurprisingly with overcast skies there was an uncontested toss which saw the home side bat first.

The home side captained by Alex Wakely made two changes from side that lost at Chesterfield against Derbyshire in late July, with Josh Cobb and Seekkuge Prasanna replaced by Rory Kleinveldt and Saif Zaib.

Richard Johnson’s side came into the match in fifth place, 41 points behind leaders Warwickshire – who Middlesex beat by 18 runs last time out in a thrilling match at Lord’s.

Promising young seamer Bamber was handed his first class debut as the visitors made one change, with offspinner Ollie Rayner missing out.

The 19-year-old rising star has represented the club from the U15s onwards and was England’s joint leading-wicket taker at U19 World Cup in New Zealand and the delight the youngsters face was clear to see beforehand.

One fact which emerged to pique interest is Bamber’s father played the role of Hitler in the Hollywood blockbuster Valkyrie, alongside Tom Cruise who starred as Claus von Stauffenberg as the plot to assasinate the evil Nazi dictator was portrayed in celloid.

As an aside, the word Valkirye in Nordic mythology referred to each of Odin’s twelve handmaids who conducted the slain warriors of their choice from the battlefield to Valhalla as a form of paradise.

For the youngster Bamber, Wantage Road was certainly his Valhalla on Sunday morning, even if his opening over was peppered, understandably, with a few looseners laced with first-day nerves.

He showed promise as he beat the bat at times, even if he looked raw, ending a day he will never forget on a creditable, if a tad expensive, 18-2-68-1.

Prior to that, under gunmetal grey skies Harris made an early breakthrough on his way to five wickets, with the help of an inside edge, by bowling Ben Duckett for seven with the score on 16-1.

Harris could, and should, have had a second wicket, but Eoin Morgan dropped the Johannesburg-born wicketkeeper batsman Vasconcelos after downing a regulation catch at first slip off his bowling, as the left-handed bat lived to fight another day on 28 after the home side had moved onto 68-1.

It was to prove a costly error even if Harris did get his second of the morning – towards his total of five for a memorable day – an over later, removing Luke Procter lbw for 26 with the score on 75-2, to end a productive partnership of 59, as Northants ended the morning on 107-2.

Follow Middlesex CCC reporter Layth on Twitter @laythy29

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