Northants closing in
Northamptonshire are poised to take another big stride towards promotion after bowling Derbyshire to the brink of defeat on the third day of the LV= County Championship Division Two match at Chesterfield.
The home side were 289 for eight at the close, chasing an improbable target of 494 to win, after James Middlebrook scored his third championship century of the season in Northamptonshire’s 416 for nine declared.
David Lucas picked up three wickets and skipper Andrew Hall and Middlebrook each took two, but, although the visitors claimed an extra half-hour, they could not finish Derbyshire off.
Northamptonshire resumed the third day on 285 for six, already a commanding 362 in front, and by lunch had added another 101 for the loss of Hall.
Derbyshire’s only hope was to knock over the last four wickets quickly, but despite a good spell with the new ball, it was 19 overs before they broke the seventh-wicket stand.
Hall was clearly determined to bat Derbyshire out of the game and had faced 150 balls for his 44 when he edged a drive and was well caught by Martin Guptill low to his left at second slip.
He had added 102 in 39 overs with Middlebrook and, though Northamptonshire were now 404 in front, there was no sign of a declaration.
Middlebrook straight-drove Greg Smith for six and Chaminda Vaas played some elegant strokes until he was bowled for 37 aiming a big hit at Chesney Hughes.
Hall waited until Middlebrook cut Smith for the four which took him to his hundred before setting Derbyshire the task of scoring the highest fourth-innings total in the county’s history.
At least they could draw some inspiration from last year, when they made 365 against Surrey at Queen’s Park, and Martin Guptill and Chesney Hughes began confidently by scoring 52 from the first 10 overs.
Hughes was clearly unhappy to be given out caught behind off Hall for 20 and Smith was dismissed cheaply when Lucas found some inswing to knock out his off stump.
Derbyshire’s hopes rested with Guptill and the New Zealander unleashed some scorching drives to move to 46 from 56 balls, but the wicket Northamptonshire wanted came when he edged Hall on to his pad and Niall O’Brien took a low catch.
Wes Durston and Dan Redfern played some defiant shots before Vaas tempted the former into forcing at a wide one.
Redfern drove and hooked Hall for three fours in an over on his way to a 45-ball fifty, but Middlebrook found some extra bounce to have him taken at first slip on 58 and Lucas cut one back to trap Luke Sutton lbw for 14.
Ross Whiteley then chopped Lucas into his leg stump and, when Northants claimed the extra eight overs, Tim Groenewald was dropped twice in the slips before he was caught off bat and pad at silly point.
Hall saw another slip catch go down off his bowling as Jonathan Clare and Tony Palladino clung on to take the match into the final day.