David Willey smashed his second century of the season as, together with Josh Cobb’s 95, Northamptonshire’s lower order once again dug them out of trouble on Day Two against Derbyshire.
Northants were precariously placed at 101/6 shortly before lunch but a record breaking stand of 163 from Willey and Cobb, which came up in just 29 overs, hauled Northants to 324 and 19 runs adrift of parity.
Cobb narrowly missed out on his first century since moving from Leicestershire last winter, but newly England capped Willey did complete his second ton of the season and his career, coming in just 96 balls.
Derbyshire extended their lead to 95 as they reached 76/0 by the close, and afterwards Northants head coach David Ripley admitted it had been a match of fluctuating fortunes after Willey and Cobb got his side out of trouble.
“Certainly a rear-guard action to start with and then they certainly got on the front foot,” he said. “It was quite an exciting partnership and it was good to watch.
“It’s been an interesting match, it’s rollercoastered from one side to the other, I’m sure Derby, like us yesterday, were hoping to get a substantial first innings lead and then we counter-attacked with those two.
“We’re a bit disappointed we didn’t fare better with the new ball, but delighted those guys dug us out of a hole and the game is well poised, the last session was tough cricket, the opening batters played well to blunt us but we didn’t give them anything either.”
Northamptonshire captain Alex Wakely did not bat in his side’s innings following a blow to the hand on the opening day, while Cobb was struck on the head by Mark Footitt during his innings, and was sent to hospital for precautionary tests, and Ripley had positive news on the duo.
“Alex has been for an x-ray on his hand and it didn’t show anything in terms of a break, it has swollen up quite a lot of the back of his hand, but hopefully with another day of ice and rest we hope we could hopefully use him on the last day.
Josh obviously took a blow, he seemed fine but we need to be careful with those things and he’s just gone to the hospital to see if everything’s good but again we’re expecting him to be back and probably fielding tomorrow.”
Shortly before lunch Northants had been in danger on following on, still 93 adrift of that mark and with only three wickets remaining in Wakely’s absence after Derbyshire’s bowlers dominated the morning.
Nightwatchman opener Mohammed Azharullah lasted just five balls of the morning, chipping a catch to midwicket off Taylor, and when Stephen Peters (14) edged Footitt behind and Rob Newton was caught at third slip off Ben Cotton’s second ball, Northants were 30/3.
Kyle Coetzer’s return to the first team ended with just 13 to his name as he also fell to Footitt, before Rossington edgedTaylor to slip. Rob Keogh backed up his century against Lancashire with a composed 31, but when he fell in the same fashion as Rossington the visitors were still 93 adrift of the follow on.
However those hopes were soon a distance memory as Cobb and Willey came together, the latter initially cautious with Cobb the aggressor, contributing the majority of the first 50, bringing up a third half-century for his new county off just 63 balls, although he did need treatment having been hit on the helmet by Footitt earlier on.
Matt Critchey dropped Willey on 19 off his own bowling, and that proved to be the catalyst for him to move rapidly through the gears as Northants passed the follow-on mark.
Having taken 46 balls to get to 20, Willey would require only 50 more to score the 80 runs that took his to a second century of the season, and his career, smashing Critchley for consecutive sixes to start the onslaught.
The pair’s century stand was Northants’ seventh of the season, equaling their total for the entire of last year, but just after beating the county record for the seventh wicket against Derbyshire, and with Cobb five short of a century, Shiv Thakor found the breakthrough, Cobb edging a drive behind.
Willey was on 64 when Cobb departed but needed just five more overs to reach three figures, cutting Footitt to the boundary, his tenth four to go with six sixes in his savage knock.
He departed in the next over however, slicing a drive off Thakor to hole out at long-off and after Steven Crook’s breezy 22 was ended by Footitt, Northants had added 200 runs in 32 overs of the afternoon session to close within 19 of parity.
However, Derbyshire’s openers ground out a solid, if unspectacular unbroken stand of 76 in the 36 overs that remained in the day. Chesney Hughes was the more aggressive with six fours in his 41 while Slater found the boundary five times to close on 27, the pair taking the blunt out of the new ball.