Twenty-one wickets fell on Day Two at Grace Road but it was Leicestershire who ended an action-packed day in pole position to claim a second Championship win of the season, with a lead of 309 and five second-innings wickets remaining.
Wayne White and Neil Dexter shared seven wickets as Northants lost their last six for 25 runs to be bowled out for 151, after Leicestershire themselves had collapsed form 311-5 to 323 all out at the start of the day.
Mark Cosgrove opted not to enforce the follow-on and the hosts slipped to 79-5, but Niall O’Brien’s unbeaten 48 saw them end the day 132-6, Ben Sanderson with 4-32 as the Northants kept their slim hopes alive.
Opening batsman Jake Libby admitted it was their first day bowling, where Leicestershire had reached 311-5, that had let the visitors down, but believes their bowlers have got them back into the contest.
“I think the wicket had the potential [for 21 wickets], I don’t think we bowled the best on Day One and didn’t get the best out of the conditions,” he said.
“Obviously we’re disappointed with how we batted, gave them a few cheap wickets which hopefully we can put right now we’ve got ourselves back into the game.
“I think the boys are a little bit frustrated with that but we’ve done well to claw ourselves back into the game, when we could have been facing the follow-on. I think it’s a great effort from the bowlers to come out and churn that out.
“There’s always something in the pitch and we’ll work hard tomorrow, there’s enough in it for the bowlers but it’s coming on nicely enough, there’s always one with your name on it but around that there’s runs on it.
“Absolutely, we’re back in the game, we’re trying to win it obviously, there’s loads of time left in the game so trying to bat for two days is probably not realistic, but we’ve put ourselves right back in and it takes one or two big partnerships or one guy to stand up and get a big score and we’re right in this.”
The opening day saw a wayward Northants bowling performance to allow the hosts to reach 311-5 with few alarms, but it was an entirely different story on the second day, which began when nightwatchman Ben Raine was caught and bowled in the opening over.
Two more followed in the next over from Stone as Aadil Ali missed a full toss and was bowled, before O’Brien was trapped lbw.
Clint McKay was bowled by Sanderson and Charlie Shreck suffered the same fate off Stone as Northants wrapped up the second half of the Leicestershire innings inside 40 minutes.
However the visitors were not to fare much better with the bat themselves, Ben Duckett the first to go as he was pinned LBW on the back foot by Raine, who then troubled both Jake Libby and Alex Wakely, finding the inside and outside edges of both before bowling the Northants skipper for 17.
After battling his way to 32, Libby was perhaps unlucky to be caught down the legside off White, with Josh Cobb, who was making his 100th first class appearance alongside Wakely, making 30 before edging an expansive drive off McKay shortly after lunch.
It was the introduction of Dexter that sparked the collapse though, his first delivery horribly slashed behind by Richard Levi before Steven Crook edged the third into the gully.
Olly Stone was unlucky to receive a grubber from White to be bowled, but White wrapped up the innings with the wickets of Azharullah and Sanderson to finish with 4-24, while Dexter took 3-15 in four overs.
Given the slightly iffy forecast for the remaining of the game it was perhaps surprising that Cosgrove opted against enforcing the follow-on and his side were soon 21-2 as Kleinveldt trapped Paul Horton (10) LBW for the second time in the game, before Dexter was bowled by Olly Stone without score.
Ben Sanderson then took three wickets in as many overs, Angus Robson (25) edging to slip, Cosgrove LBW to one that kept low for 32, before Mark Pettini edged to slip, the 20th wicket of the day inside 75 overs.
With the lead only 241 at that point, Northants might have fancied a way back into the contest but O’Brien and Aadil Ali negotiated the final hour of play with only the one alarm, when O’Brien was dropped at slip against the off-spin of Jake Libby, bringing their partnership to 52 only for Ali to edge the final ball of the day from Sanderson for fall for seven.