It was a day of milestones in Chesterfield for Alex Wakely, but the Specsavers County Championship match against Derbyshire is very much in the balance at the end of day two.
The Northamptonshire captain passed the milestone of 6,000 first class runs en route to his 106-run total, but while he shared a sixth-wicket stand of 120 with Steven Crook the visitors could not capitalise, Tony Palladino triggering a late collapse that limited Northamptonshire to 289 and a slender lead of 29.
Northamptonshire had looked on course for a sizeable lead when Wakely and Crook batted into the afternoon after Derbyshire had taken two wickets in six overs.
Nathan Buck extended his nightwatchman duties by 35 minutes before he was tempted into driving at the second ball from Critchley and was well caught low down by Billy Godleman at mid off.
Godleman grassed a simpler chance in Critchley’s next over but Richard Levi did not make the most of the reprieve and was deceived by one from Hardus Viljoen that came back.
At 118-5, Derbyshire had an opening but Crook and Wakely played with increasing authority as the home bowlers tired in the sweltering conditions.
Wakely pulled Critchley for six and when off-spinner Hamidullah Qadri replaced him at the Lake End, he drove him for two sixes in an over. But Critchley got one to turn and bounce to have Wakely well caught at slip by Madsen and the innings went into sharp decline when Josh Cobb drove back a return catch.
Crook was lbw to one that nipped back from Palladino and Prasanna perished trying to hit Critchley out of the ground before Palladino defeated Brett Hutton’s defensive push.
Derbyshire’s openers Ben Slater and Billy Godleman took their team into the lead before Ben Sanderson continued where he had left off in the first innings by taking the early wicket of home captain Godleman for just 16.
Nevertheless there were still more momentum shifts to come. An 86-run stand from Ben Slater and Wayne Madsen put Derbyshire on the front foot as Northamptonshire’s bowlers felt the heat, but when Slater was caught by Ben Duckett off Prasanna it triggered a mini-collapse, the hosts losing three wickets for just 17 runs.
Prasanna trapped Alex Hughes for nine and Sanderson bowled nightwatchman Dan Wheeldon for two to leave Derbyshire at 147-4 at the close with a lead of 118.
“It’s pretty even at the moment and it looks like an exciting game,” said Wakely.
“It seems to be the story of the season so far, we get ourselves in good positions and then find a way of giving the game back to the opposition.
“It is frustrating, we did all the hard work and if Crooky (Steven Crook) could have got a hundred or I’d got 150 the game would have been very different.
“Tomorrow is the key day for me, I think both ourselves and Derbyshire will be looking at the first session as key, 30 overs in the morning will probably dictate where the game goes.”