Lancashire’s batsmen dominated on the second day as the hosts fought back well against Northamptonshire to move to within 200 of the visitors’ first-innings total.
After Northants were bowled out for 438, Karl Brown made 97 and Ashwell Prince 83 to help Lancashire to 257 for four at the close.
In perfect batting conditions, the LV=County Championship Division Two leaders started the day hoping for quick wickets as Northants began the morning session on 388 for six but with their tail exposed.
A frenetic opening hour saw the visitors lose Adam Rossington, trapped lbw by Kyle Jarvis for 89, before former Lancs all rounder Steven Crook (34) and Azarullah (12no) added some valuable late order runs to help take the score to 438 all out. Australian James Faulkner was the pick of the Red Rose bowlers, finishing with figures of four for 63.
With the mercury rising, Lancashire’s reply got off to a poor start when a wonderful second over of the innings from Olly Stone climaxed with the 21-year-old knocking back Paul Horton’s off stump as the Lancashire opener’s poor run of form with the bat continued.
In a mirror image of Northamptonshire’s batting, an early wicket was followed by a century partnership as Brown and Alex Davies began rebuilding with determination and no little skill.
Brown, who earlier survived an easy stumping opportunity when Rossington fumbled a sharply turning delivery from Graeme White, reached his half-century in the half-hour before the break.
He was quickly followed by 20-year-old Davies, who celebrated being shortlisted for the LV= Breakthrough Player of the Year with a fifth 50 of the season before edging Rob Keogh behind two balls later for 51.
Despite the breakthrough, things did not get any any easier for the overworked Northants bowlers after tea as Brown and the in-form Prince set about building another big partnership.
It was a particularly memorable afternoon for South African Prince as he first passed 18,000 first class runs when reaching 55 and then became the first player this season to hit 1,000 Championship runs after making 61.
Meanwhile at the other end, a long-awaited second first class century seemed to be within Brown’s grasp until he inexplicably top edged a cut off White to Stone at slip for 97 with the score on 226 and the broken third-wicket partnership worth 116. It was especially unfortunate for the Bolton-born player who earlier in the season was out for 96 against Leicestershire.
Northants sniffed a rare chance and got their reward when Prince followed soon after, edging a drive to Stone at slip off Keogh, who bowled his off breaks tirelessly for 27 overs.
Despite Richard Levi dropping a late chance presented by Croft off the bowling of Keogh, the double breakthrough perhaps tipped the scales slightly in the visitors’ favour with Faulkner (five not out) and skipper Steven Croft (13no) negotiating the rest of the day’s play safely to reach 257 for four at the close.
Prince said: “It is even-stevens at the moment. If we get up to their score, the pitch will start spinning and the game will quicken up.
“It is frustrating that we both got out and it slowed our scoring rate up a bit. I had in the back of my mind to keep the scoring rate up.
“It was really unfortunate and it is the second time I have been at the non-striker’s end and seen him (Karl Brown) get out just short of his century.
“It is disappointing and I feel for him. He is batting well and the three runs doesn’t make much of a difference and it was still a quality innings.
“Cricket is a stats based game, but at the end of the day you look at his contribution at the end of the innings and in the match as an opening batsman, he has laid a great foundation for the rest of the team.
“He struggled early on, we played on some sporty pitches when he came into the team. But he now has four 50s in a row. He has some form, he has some confidence and that bodes well for the team.
“It is satisfying to have a good season - 18,000 has a lot to do with how many matches I have played. It is nice to get the milestones but, at the end of the day, the bigger picture is to win the game.”