Ben Duckett’s third Championship century provided a spirited response for Northamptonshire on the second afternoon at Wantage Road against Derbyshire but the visitors closed on course for victory with Northants 245 for 6 in their second innings with the scores level.
Mark Footitt’s 5 for 41 helped fire out Northants for just 116 in their first innings, their lowest total of the season, but Duckett’s hundred as Northants followed-on at least ensured Derbyshire were made to work for the strong position on a day where 15 wickets fell.
Duckett’s promotion to open the innings has proved a masterstroke by the Northants management. He made 222 runs, including a first century of the season, at Lancashire in his second match in the role, added another half-century against Gloucestershire at Cheltenham, and here, avoided a king pair in some style to make an important century.
Opening the second innings with Northants 245 behind, Duckett was dropped on 26 by Hamish Rutherford at cover but thereafter played carefully to go through to fifty in 75 balls. Typically strong square of the wicket, Duckett cut and pulled to good effect and enjoyed the best batting conditions of the day after tea with the Wantage Road ground bathed in sunshine.
Three boundaries in six balls from Ben Cotton took him into the 90s before he was made to wait a while on 99 as Adam Rossington received treatment for what appeared a hamstring tweak.
But Duckett was not flustered and struck Shiv Thakor through square leg to bring up a century in 134 balls with 17 boundaries.
He had Rossington for company for much of the evening session in a stand of 98 for the fifth wicket.
Rossington got off the mark with a six over midwicket off Wes Durston and struck a further eight boundaries - three of them cuts off Durston - before playing a scoring stroke that didn’t go to the fence.
He fell lbw as Tony Palladino returned for a new spell with seven overs left in the day and then he clean bowled nightwatchman Oli Stone with a perfect yorker.
It was a pleasant end to the day for Northants who were blown away in the morning session by Footitt, dismissed for their lowest total of the season.
Footitt took his third five-wicket haul of the season that began on the first evening and continued during a an extended opening spell of eight overs on the second morning.
Alex Wakely was set up with two deliveries going across him, he then shouldered arms to an inswinger and lost his off stump for 8. Footitt also had Stone caught and bowled before coming back after lunch to have Rory Kleinveldt caught at point first ball and then clean bowled Maurice Chambers.
Northants first innings lasted just just 38.1 overs so Derbyshire had no hesitation in enforcing the follow-on and it took just eight balls for Footitt to strike again as a lifting delivery had Steven Peters caught at short midwicket.
Wakely was then forced to battle hard and was beaten regularly but survived 36 deliveries - albeit for only five runs - before inexplicably pulling Ben Cotton to mid-on. But Duckett then settled in and his century ensured Northants moved to parity.