Jake Libby completed his second first class century before Rory Kleinveldt bludgeoned 97, as Northants gained a first innings lead on day three against Derbyshire at Wantage Road. Despite this, however, the game looks set to end in a draw.
Libby, on-loan from Nottinghamshire, hit a composed hundred to set the platform and, although the hosts lost four wickets for 17 runs to slip to 208-5 in the afternoon, Kleinveldt shared a brutal stand of 140 with Richard Levi, who carried on to end the day unbeaten on 84, as Northants closed Day Three 438-7, a lead of 114.
Libby’s and Kleinveldt’s respective innings were of total contrast: the former a traditional opener’s innings, composed and virtually chanceless as the 23-year-old reached a hundred off 222 balls. Kleinveldt’s was sheer brutality, reaching 50 in just 20 balls and going on to face 69, with 13 fours and three sixes before holing out three short of what would have been his second career ton.
The stand with Levi changed the context of the match inside an hour, as Northants went from a deficit of over a hundred to a lead, and the possibility that early wickets on the final day could keep alive hopes of a result. However, the pitch has suggested that only Derbyshire’s failures will prevent a draw.
The day was one of two distinct halves, with a collapse in the middle for good measure as the morning and first part of the afternoon saw Libby, along with Ben Duckett and captain Alex Wakely lay the foundations.
Duckett was following his 282 not out in his last appearance at Wantage Road and reached a half-century, before falling for 60, edging Andy Carter to second slip. The rest of the morning turned into a grind as Libby and, in particular, Wakely were restricted by a disciplined Derbyshire bowling attack led by Luke Fletcher.
Wakely took 91 balls to find the boundary, and looked to be getting into his stride, only to be pinned LBW by Shiv Thakor for 35, a wicket that sparked a mini collapse, though not before Libby could reach his century, his first since his 108 on debut for Nottinghamshire in 2014.
Libby has hardly offered a chance in just shy of five hours at the crease but played back to a Wes Durston delivery that turned, to depart for 102. With Josh Cobb and Steven Crook both falling to Thakor in quick succession, a position of comfort at 191-1 had turned into 208-5, the deficit still 116.
Two hours later that deficit had turned into a substantial lead, with Adam Rossington proving the taster of what was to come with a brisk 19 before guiding Fletcher straight to point in the penultimate over before tea.
Whilst the morning had seen 70 runs scored in total, Kleinveldt and Levi needed only seven overs of the evening session to equal that tally, Andy Carter bearing the brunt as a two over spell cost 38, with Kleinveldt clubbing nine fours and pulling a huge six in reaching his half century in just 20 balls.
With the field pushed back, he did slow down but still scored at a run a ball, whilst Levi may have been playing the supporting role, but still reached his own half century in 63 balls with seven fours, as the pair’s century stand came up in 77 balls.
Kleinveldt hit sixes off successive overs from Thakor and Durston to move within sight of three figures, a feat he achieved for the first and so far only time back in 2005, but as he attempted to go there in style, picked up Hamish Rutherford on the midwicket boundary to give Tony Palladino his first wicket.
The partnership had ensured that Levi could cruise Northants to maximum batting points, moving himself to within 16 of a century whilst Graeme White added 23 as the pair reached the close with few alarms, their partnership on 49.
“For the first 60 overs they bowled brilliantly, very straight and it was difficult to score. You couldn’t really time the ball. Jake battled through and didn’t come out of his shell at all – which was perfect. He’s the player we’ve been lacking for a while and Jake seems to fit the mould of a player who can bat all day.
“Rory played an outrageous knock. I felt for him falling three short of a hundred but he won’t mind – it’ll just fire him up for bowling tomorrow.
“We’re in a very good position. If we can get 150 ahead and make it as difficult for them as possible. But it’s nice to come back for a fourth day of a Championship game still with a chance of winning.”