A superb century century from opener Ben Duckett ensured Northamptonshire enjoyed a productive day against LV= County Championship Division Two leaders Lancashire at Old Trafford.
Duckett struck 134 off 151 balls as the visitors recovered from the loss of Kyle Coetzer in just the second over of the game to reach a commanding total of 388 for six at the conclusion of a tough three sessions for the home side.
Alex Wakely and Richard Levi chipped in with half-centuries while Northants will be confident of gaining maximum points on Tuesday with Adam Rossington unbeaten on 79.
Lancashire started well after losing the toss, with Kyle Jarvis pinning Kyle Coetzer in front in the second over, but Duckett and Wakely then combined excellently to put Northants on top.
With his captain happy to play the support act, former England Under 19s player Duckett revelled in his role as enforcer as he dispatched first Tom Bailey for six before targeting the spin bowling of Simon Kerrigan and Aaron Lilley as the morning session came to an end.
The pair continued their serene progress from the morning session, compiling a second wicket partnership of 170, before Australian James Faulkner uprooted Wakely’s leg stump with a superb yorker, the skipper departing for a watchful 56.
Duckett finally fell in the 50th over the day when he became spinner Kerrigan’s 250th first-class wicket after the left armer trapped the century maker lbw for a thrilling 134 off only 151 balls, which included 19 fours and two sixes.
Just two balls later, Kerrigan was celebrating again when Rob Keogh (19) popped a catch up to Lancashire skipper Steven Croft at short leg to give the home side some hope of a recovery as the afternoon progressed.
The double wicket burst came as some relief to the beleaguered left-armer after his first over went for 15, during a period when he and fellow spinner Lilley were not allowed to settle by Duckett’s aggressive stroke making.
All hopes of a Red Rose comeback were slowly extinguished by the fifth wicket pair of Levi and Rossington, who steadied any nerves in the hour before tea to take the visitors to 272 for four at the break and then continued their steady but effective batting in the evening session.
The new ball was negotiated without undue worry as both players reached their half-centuries with ease in the face of increasing frustration from the seamers, who struggled with both the unhelpful pitch and unsympathetic overhead conditions on a chastening day for the previously effective Lancashire attack.
With the end of the day in sight, the partnership had extended to 142 when Levi uncharacteristically chased a wide one from Faulkner and nicked behind to wicket keeper Alex Davies for 57 before the Australian suddenly found himself on a hat-trick after Josh Cobb edged the next ball to Steven Croft at second slip for a first-ball duck.
Rossington and former Lancashire all-rounder Steven Crook dealt with the remaining five overs without any major scares to leave the Red Rose with much to ponder going into the second day’s play.
After the match Duckett admitted he was relieved to score a century.
“It’s always good to get a hundred. I’ve been hitting the white ball all right but not the red ball but today I got the chance to bat at the top of the order on a pretty nice wicket,” he said.
“It was a case of getting through the new ball and then trying to play as straight as possible and it paid off.
“Everyone has batted well and I hope we can continue batting for a long time tomorrow because I think it’s going to turn and we’ve got three spinners.
“If you let spinners settle and find a rhythm they’ll find it easy but if you use your feet and try and get the fielders back it becomes a lot easier.”