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NORTHAMPTONSHIRE V MIDDLESEX | DAY ONE


Ricardo Vasconcelos made his maiden century in county cricket to give Northamptonshire an excellent opening day against Middlesex on the return of the Specsavers County Championship to Wantage Road.
 
Vasconcelos equalled his career-best 140, occupying the crease for 210 balls, as Northants made 332 for 8 having been sent in on a green-tinged pitch where movement with the ball was evident all day.
 
Having initially been signed as batting cover, Vasconcelos has made a great impression for Northants and here, ground out a century in 161 balls, taking full advantage of a terrible dropped catch by Eoin Morgan at first slip when the left-hander only had 28.
 
Resuming after lunch on 47 not out, Vasconcelos steered a boundary to third man to raise fifty in 74 balls with six fours before driving further boundaries through cover point and mid-off.
 
He played second-fiddle in a stand of 77 with Richard Levi for the fourth wicket but after Levi fell for 41, drove Tim Murtagh through cover for his 14th boundary to go to his third first-class century and first in the UK.
 
Vasconcelos played the stroke of the day - an imperious drive on the up through the covers - but eventually fell dragging Ethan Bamber into his stumps, handing 19-year-old Bamber a wicket on his first-team debut. It ended another of the four fifty-plus partnerships Northants built as they steadily accumulated throughout the day.
 
Ben Duckett was the only single-figure score of the top-order but after James Harris sent one through his gate to bowl the left-hander for 7 in the sixth over of the morning Middlesex were not as sharp in the field as they would have liked having not contested the toss.
 
Luke Procter and Vasconcelos added 59 for the second wicket before Procter fell over a Harris inswinger and was lbw for a carefully-compiled 26. Alex Wakely edged Harris behind for 18 just after lunch but not after another handy stand of 58.
 
Levi joined Vasconcelos and the pair moved Northants into a strong position at 210 for 3 with Levi, returning from a quad injury, beginning to pull with authority - one such stroke carried deep-square for six - but a miscued pull found mid-on and Levi fell for 41 just when poised to take the afternoon away from Middlesex.
 
But the visitors remained game and the wicket of Vasconcelos came just before the second-new ball was due and saw a fightback from 273 for 4 to 312 for 8. Murtagh trapped Steven Crook lbw for 31 before Harris struck twice in two balls, bowling Rory Kleinveldt for 7 and having Nathan Buck caught behind to finish the day with 5 for 81 - his third five-wicket haul of the summer.
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