Northamptonshire didn’t relinquish control of their County Championship encounter with Leicestershire but they will do well to force victory on the final day.
After an unpromising start to their stint in the field which saw the visitors reach 108-1, the home attack, led by the excellent Trent Copeland, found their range and Shiv Thakor aside, they met with little resistance.
The County will begin day four with a lead of 215 and given the time that has been lost, quick runs will have to be a priority if victory is to become a possibility although the loss of three late wickets will necessitate undesired caution in the morning.
In a break from the norm, this outing has been the first occasion this season where the County’s attack haven’t been entirely at the races.
The opening delivery of the day from David Willey, which Greg Smith eased to the cover boundary off the back foot, continued the trend from the previous evening which saw a proliferation of four balls.
Willey and Crook were the main culprits and the former’s initial forays on the third morning showed little in the way of improvement.
Copeland,could be excused some of the criticism and a switch of ends brought him some reward when Greg Smith, minutes after passing the half-century mark, swatted a cut straight to Matt Spriegel at cover point.
It was a bit of a waste from Smith who hadn’t been in any trouble and was hitting the ball sweetly but it gave the hosts a foothold that hadn’t really been earned.
Often it takes a break in play to bring about a shift in momentum and after the second of two brief delays for bad light and drizzle, that is precisely what occurred.
Copeland trapped Ned Eckersley in front on the back foot and in the next over Willey plucked out Josh Cobb’s off stump.
Nineteen balls, eight runs and three wickets and all of a sudden it was a case of back to business for the seamers who located a spring in their step that hadn’t been evident earlier in the piece.
And they will have lunched well given that Ramnarersh Sarwan played round a straight one from Copeland, who had bowled all session and had the West Indian dropped by Ben Duckett low to his right minutes earlier, in the final over before the interval.
Matthew Boyce and Thakor dug in and ate into the deficit neatly enough, however, a change of angle did for the left-hander as Copeland’s first ball from around the wicket induced an inside edge on to middle stump.
This constituted the Australian’s third five-wicket haul in as many innings and was a triumph for persistence as he had, bar one over while he switched ends, bowled unchanged throughout the Foxes’ stint.
Number six wasn’t too long in coming as Jigar Naik got his pads in the way and the same fate befell Ollie Freckingham with Willey the bowler.
Hall then had Robbie Williams well taken by Duckett up to the stumps and there was a chance that the follow-on mark wouldn’t be reached but Thakor put these fears to rest with a lofted boundary off Willey.
Some resistance for the tenth wicket was offered, allowing Thakor to progress to a good half-century and he was left high and dry as Copeland - no rest for the wicked evidently - returned to snare a seventh for figures of 7-63.
Going in for a second time with a lead of 121, Matt Spriegel fell early on to Freckingham and once David Sales had accelerated smoothly, he edged a wide Alex Wyatt offering behind once he had passed 30, his highest score of the season.
James Middlebrook, who had played nicely, Rob Newton and Alex Wakely all then fell in the final 10 minutes of the day to put a slight spanner in the works.