Mitchell’s 243-ball stay in a minute shy of six hours was his best score for two seasons, his 26th first-class century and first at Northampton. It was a typically dogged effort with 19 boundaries, few memorable strokes but a classic example of concentration and determination.
It set the game up perfectly for Worcestershire, who were eventually bowled out for 434, and when Joe Leach knocked out Max Holden’s off stump five overs into the Northants second innings and Alex Wakely criminally hooked Josh Tongue to long leg three overs from the close, it was an ideal day for the visitors.
Mitchell’s tight technique and cool temperament was tailor-made for a day where Northants hoped to get back in the game and bowled far better than the first evening. But after striking in the seventh over of the day, the hosts were ground down, chiefly by Mitchell, who prodded, poked, pushed and pulled them out of the game.
He made only two Championship centuries last season but has taken only four games to match the mark this year, here following up his 120 at Derby last week. Resuming on 52, he steered Worcestershire through an important morning session with the ball moving around under a good layer of cloud.
Daryl Mitchell said: “Northants have actually been a bit of a bogey team for me until the last couple of years so it’s nice to get a few. Tom came in and played a really important knock, he’s good to bat with and that was an enjoyable stand.
“We’ve had two good days here and got a big lead on a deteriorating pitch so hopefully we can press home the advantage tomorrow."
Ben Sanderson beat the bat several times and created a half chance against Mitchell who edged towards second slip on 61, Alex Wakely couldn’t get down to his right to take the catch. But apart from one airy drive edged past slip, Mitchell had the measure of the attack and went through to a century in 164 balls with 11 boundaries. He eventually fell to the ninth over of the second new ball, lbw to a very full delivery from Nathan Buck.
He shared 169 for the fourth wicket with Tom Kholer-Cadmore - a partnership that took 45.4 overs and did not have a modest Wantage Road crowd hurrying out of the bars. What it did do is snuff out Northants vision of a recovery.
It took until the 4th over of the second new ball for Northants to make the breakthrough - Sanderson sliding a ball into Kholer-Cadmore’s middle stump after he had gone past fifty for the second time this season in the County Championship in 101 balls with seven fours, his best stroke a perfectly timed pull off Sanderson.
Just when it looked as if Northants had restored some pride with Buck completing a second five-for of the season, pegging Worcestershire back from 299 for 3 to 365 for 8, Joe Leach and Jack Shantry added a fifty partnership in just 37 balls to raise maximum batting points - the pick of the strokes, Leach’s lofted extra-cover drive for six en route to fifty in only 34 balls. Shantry’s reverse-sweeps in his unbeaten 30 were also a sign that is was very much Worcestershire’s day.
Northants' Nathan Buck said: "We bowled well in patches and produced periods of pressure but couldn’t contain as much as we’d liked and seemed to leak a few too many.
“The pitch didn’t do as much as yesterday and we didn’t put the ball in the good areas as consistently as we wanted to.”