Rob Newton’s maiden first-class double century led Northants out of danger on the third day of their Specsavers County Championship Division Two clash against Leicestershire at the County Ground.
Newton’s 202 not out led Northants to 397 for seven against the Foxes, and the County declared 122 behind the visitors’ first innings 519 all out to potentially help set up a final day run chase.
Leicestershire closed on 49 without loss in their second innings, leading by 171.
Both sides need victory, Northants especially, to keep their promotion hopes alive and skipper Alex Wakely’s declaration has opened up the game for day four.
Newton’s rearguard double century dented Leicestershire’s first route to victory by seeing Northants past the follow-on mark.
He left well, defended solidly and nudged the bowling around where possible,
Calm throughout, Newton’s only moment of fortune was a top-edged pull that fell just short of deep square running in when he had past his first century, and ninth of his first-class career, in 208 balls with 15 fours.
Two healthy partnerships steered Northants away from trouble at 184 for five 10 overs into the third day.
Newton batted through the first half of the day with teenager Saif Zaib, who made a composed 43 in a a partnership of 81 in 35 overs.
The pair slowly began to move Northants towards safer waters but Zaib edged Neil Dexter, with the second new ball, to second slip and when Rory Kleinveldt was run-out coming back for a second by a direct hit from Rob Sayer, Leicestershire’s hopes of enforcing the follow-on were raised.
A second stand was needed for Northants to avoid that prospect and Steven Crook, batting down the order after a calf injury and with a runner, added 101 for the eighth wicket with Newton to ensure Leicestershire could not ask Northants to bat again.
Instead, shortly after Newton reached his double century with a flick to fine leg, Wakely called in his batsman, conceding a lead of 122.
Northants will now surely face a run chase on day four.
Initially, Leicestershire held control of the game.
Northants resumed 142 for four, 377 behind, and removed Adam Rossington early.
Rossington’s innings was rather skittish. He began with a skip down the pitch to lift Rob Sayer over long-on for six and added four boundaries - a perfect straight drive, a short arm pull, a top-edged cut over gully and an outside edge wide of third slip.
He never settled and, pushing hard at Clint McKay, was taken at second slip. Newton batted on all day.