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Middlebrook leaves game in balance

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James Middlebrook's stubborn, unbeaten 78 gave Northamptonshire hope of chasing 240 to beat Lancashire on the last day at Wantage Road.

Opening batsman Middlebrook helped the hosts to 145 for five at stumps, meaning they need another 95 tomorrow for a first win back in the top flight.

Lancashire, also promoted last year, will fancy their chances of the same accolade, but less so than when they reduced Northants to 77 for five.

Middlebrook and Ben Duckett put the game back in the balance with an unbroken stand of 68.

England paceman James Anderson plundered 5-48 in Northants’ first innings of 164 and continued in similar vein, today returning 3-32 from 15 overs.

Jos Buttler, resuming on 66 of Lancashire’s 244 for five, could only survive two and a half overs before going lbw to Muhammad Azhar Ullah for 72.

Olly Stone then claimed four quick wickets to clean up Lancashire's tail, returning 4-65 from 20.2 overs.

Tom Smith turned his 44 into a half-century before departing on 54, Stone claiming his first victim with Steven Crook taking the catch.

Stone then accounted for captain-coach Glen Chapple and cleaned up Kabir Ali and Simon Kerrigan.

Anderson quickly put Northamptonshire under pressure, cheaply bowling Stephen Peters.

Middlebrook and Kyle Coetzer steadied proceedings, but Scotland cap Coetzer was bowled by Kabir for 19.

Matt Spriegel produced a stubborn seven runs from 51 balls, yet his resistance came to an end when Chapple had him caught at second slip.

Rob Newton departed for a duck as Anderson found an edge that was held by first slip and, just two balls and no further score later, Anderson ousted Andrew Hall to leave the hosts five down.

Duckett then joined Middlebrook in a defiant stand as Northants were able to reach stumps with some fight still remaining in this contest.

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