Where has the County’s advantage gone? The Buttler did it

Andrew Hall took three of the five Lancashire wickets to fall on day two
Andrew Hall took three of the five Lancashire wickets to fall on day two
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Northamptonshire are facing a difficult ask if they are to put a positive number in their LV= County Championship win column.

With Lancashire teetering on 130-5 shortly after the tea break - effectively 85-5 given the 45-run deficit they conceded on first innings - the home side were well on top.

But a clever piece of counter-attacking by Jos Buttler, in conjunction with Tom Smith, has given the visitors the upper hand with half of the contest remaining.

They will start day three leading by 199 runs with half of their wickets in hand and the power to make this even more challenging and it will take an excellent effort for whatever target is set to be overhauled.

The morning session, which saw Matt Spriegel advance from his overnight 43 to a fine half century, was attritional to say the least.

The hosts added just 33 in 21 overs to take their lead to 45 - relatively substantial given the goings-on on the first day - before Smith finished things off by having Olly Stone lbw and Spriegel caught by Jos Buttler as he top-edged an attempted swipe when left with only Muhammad Azharullah for company.

It brought to an end an excellent vigil from the left-hander of 20 minutes longer than four hours and it continued the good form he has shown since getting his chance in the middle order.

On such a bowler-friendly surface, Spriegel’s simple method of playing late and straight served him well and showed that patience isn’t necessarily, or shouldn’t be, an overlooked concept in these days of caution to the wind attitudes.

The visitors survived the eight overs faced before the interval and had reduced the deficit to 16 early in the afternoon before Luis Reece became the first to go, rather aimlessly and carelessly lofting Azharullah to deep square-leg.

Andrea Agathangelou’s forgettable match with bat in hand concluded with a seven-ball duck as he was lbw pushing forward to Andrew Hall and at that stage there was only one team in the ascendancy.

But Paul Horton and Ashwell Prince combined to turn the tide to some degree as they proceeded in untroubled fashion on a pitch that had appeared to have eased.

There was still a bit of lateral movement, not as pronounced as yesterday but there nevertheless, and the pair imitated Spriegel’s lead by eschewing extravagance and employing pragmatism.

The trend of wickets falling immediately after intervals continued as, just as the appearance of comfort had descended, Prince and Luke Procter fell in the space of three balls.

The latter was somehow stumped as the ball rebounded off David Murphy’s pads onto the stumps but while that could be considered a touch unlucky, Procter’s dismissal was entirely avoidable.

Had Horton set off immediately after pushing a delivery just to the right of mid-on then a single was probably on the cards but pulling up after taking a couple of paces down the wicket only served to sell his partner down the river, a fact confirmed when Rob Newton’s throw found its intended target.

That should have been the County’s opportunity to ramp up the pressure but instead it provided Buttler with his cue to seize the moment.

Calculated risk was his modus operandi and by the time he reached 50, off just 58 balls, the game was going away from the home side.

An unbroken stand of 114 is the total of his and Smith’s effort so far and they need to be got rid off quickly tomorrow morning if the damage isn’t to become too severe.