Lancashire’s cricketers retained an outside chance of a third successive victory at Wantage Road after they took two Northamptonshire wickets on the third day of their LV= County Championship match.
The Division Two leaders are ahead by nine, with the home side 42 for two in the second innings after Lancashire were dismissed for 436.
Overnight rain saw play start two hours later than scheduled, with Lancashire resuming on 216 for four. Given the choice, both sides may not have bothered with a swirling and unremitting gale that necessitated the removal of the bails for virtually the whole day’s play.
Such was its power that at one stage, the umpires had to make sure the uncovered stumps stayed in the ground.
Rory Kleinveldt - who wore a beanie hat underneath his cap for extra warmth in the field - drew the short straw of bowling into the wind from the Indoor School End. But the powerful South African extracted bounce when Alex Davies chipped the catch to midwicket, after adding just four to his overnight score.
Jordan Clark negotiated four balls before edging Kleinveldt behind to Adam Rossington without scoring and in the space of the first 15 minutes of play, the Division Two leaders were 221 for six and still 164 behind.
Ashwell Prince, who was 104 not out overnight, found support from Peter Siddle who batted sensibly while he and the 37 year-old added exactly 100 for the seventh wicket. The Australian shrugged off an illness and punished anything loose from the Northamptonshire attack.
Prince looked assured as he moved past 150, but fell sooner after when Crook induced a pop up to substitute David Murphy, going for 153 and bringing to an end 13 hours and 24 hours’ undefeated batting against Northants - including his career-best unbeaten 257 at Old Trafford last season.
Siddle, who returns home after Lancashire’s next Championship game against Gloucestershire, delivered 50 off 95 balls but fell short of a his second first-class ton as he was out for 89, lbw to Kleinveldt who took his first five-wicket haul for Northamptonshire.
When Northamptonshire began their replay, Rob Newton moved up the order to open in place of Richard Levi, who has a dislocated finger, but he lasted just one delivery, and Alex Wakely’s indeterminate waft outside off-stump added more pressure when he edged Siddle for a catch behind to leave Northants wobbling on 13 for two.
Despite a brief pause for bad light, Stephen Peters and Rob Keogh saw the home side to close for no further loss.
Siddle remains confident his side can claim victory, despite the pitch remaining true.
“It’s not too bad out there, one end is a lot worse than the other to bowl at, so it’s going to be hard work,” he said.
“We’ve just got to be patient. The wicket’s not offering up much so we can just bowl in good areas and see what happens.
“I didn’t expect to be out batting so soon today, but Ashwell Prince is a class player. He showed that again today. It was good fun. It was a bit windy and cold so I didn’t want to bowl so I thought if I batted longer, it would reduce my overs.”
Northants coach David Ripley is hopeful his side can see out the final day for a draw.
“That was an important little partnership there between Stephen (Peters) and Rob (Keogh),” he said. “It was a difficult session where Lancashire could come and give it everything and it was important that they got through those overs unscathed.”
“We’ve still got to have a good first hour, hour and a half to hopefully get us the draw.”