Half-centuries from Emilio Gay, George Bartlett and skipper Luke Procter enabled Northamptonshire to shade the opening day of their Vitality County Championship match against Leicestershire, where they finished on 337 for six.

Gay’s 88 from 110 balls was the day’s most eye-catching batting performance but Bartlett’s unbeaten 71 and Procter’s 64 from 164 had much to commend them for grittiness as the home side’s bowlers, while expensive in the morning, did eventually make them work hard for their gains.

Scott Currie and Tom Scriven finished with two wickets each but on-loan seamer Ben Green was unlucky not to have any success, while England leg-spinner Rehan Ahmed, returning to county duty for his second appearance of the season, was difficult to score against.

Gay was the dominant figure in a morning session in which Northamptonshire were the clear winners. Leicestershire, who also recalled Matt Salisbury for the injured Ben Mike, made only one breakthrough after skipper Lewis Hill had won the toss.

The home attack struggled with length and line at times and both Gay and opening partner Ricardo Vasconcelos, both of whom have started the season well, hungrily took advantage. If there was something for the bowlers in a green-tinged pitch it largely proved elusive. Northamptonshire were 60 without loss inside the first hour.

By lunch they had 128 on the board but had surrendered one wicket, Vasconcelos bowled by an inswinging ball from Scriven but Gay, though a little streaky on two or three occasions, particularly against Scriven, had looked in serious trouble only when Currie backed up a brilliant stop at third slip with a shy at the stumps that would have run him out for 41 had it hit.

The 24-year-old left-hander cashed in two matches ago with a career-best 261 against a Middlesex attack struggling with the Kookaburra. He reached 52 from 61 balls and looked good for a sixth career hundred here. However, after increasing his boundary count to 16, he fell on 88 soon after lunch when Currie pushed one through with some extra pace and bowled him off an inside edge.

The visitors suffered another blow when their Indian Test batter Karun Nair, who also has a double-hundred under his belt this season, was dismissed for 18, Salisbury deemed to have found a thin outside edge to have him caught at first slip, via the gloves of ‘keeper Ben Cox.

Leicestershire bowled with better control in the middle session than they had before lunch, with Currie in particular bowling some impressive spells that deserved more success. Yet they found themselves up against two solid adversaries in Northants skipper Procter and winter signing Bartlett, who had added 66 in a little under 20 overs when tea arrived at 242 for three, Procter having posted his fourth fifty-plus score in five innings.

With Ahmed growing to his task as a foil, giving little away from the pavilion end, and Currie continuing to bend his back at the Bennett End, pressure continued to build on the fourth-wicket pair after tea and it was Ahmed who eventually split them, bowling Procter with a ball the left-hander shaped to cut but did not sit up for the shot.

Leicestershire made the visitors work hard for their runs but not once in the day did a breakthrough prompt a flurry of quick wickets. Bartlett now had James Sales for company, and another 46 runs were chipped out before the new ball brought a second wicket for Scriven, who found the edge with a beauty, Louis Kimber taking a good, low catch at first slip. Bartlett, meanwhile, had completed his first half-century for his new county from 114 balls, but Northamptonshire lost Saif Zaib before the close, well taken by Cox off Currie.