An enterprising sixth-wicket stand between Richard Levi and Adam Rossington made the difference as Northamptonshire gained the upper hand on day two of the Specsavers County Championship match with Gloucestershire at Bristol.
In reply to the home side’s modest 125, Northamptonshire were dismissed for 173 inside 56 overs, in the process establishing a useful first-innings lead of 48.
New ball bowlers David Payne and Craig Miles returned figures of 3-29 and 3-52 respectively for Gloucestershire, the start of whose second innings was delayed by the rain that swept in during mid-afternoon and caused 49 overs to be lost.
On a green-tinged pitch which offered no little assistance to seam, batting once again proved a tortuous business. No player on either side has yet managed to post a half century in a contest that has seen ball dominate bat from the very first over.
For that reason, Levi and Rossington’s revitalising partnership came as something of a surprise to spectators who had become accustomed to seeing the ball pass the bat.
Joining forces at 76-5, these two adopted a high-risk strategy, playing on the front foot in a quest to nullify movement off the pitch and effectively altering the complexion of the game in the 8.5 overs which it took them to add 72 precious runs and propel Northamptonshire into credit.
Between them, the sixth wicket pair bludgeoned 13 boundaries, one fewer than Gloucestershire managed in the entirety of their first innings. When the admirable Miles eventually did for Levi, caught on the third man boundary via a top-edge, the sense of relief within Gloucestershire ranks was palpable.
By the time the equally forthright Rossington was bowled by Miles for a 29-ball 43 – an innings utterly out of keeping with anything that had preceded it – the visitors were 36 runs to the good and on the way to building a meaningful lead.
Opener Ben Curran had already laid the foundations in a painstaking 79-ball innings that yielded 30 runs during the morning session before he suffered a loss of concentration and edged Miles to third slip.
Otherwise, Gloucestershire’s seam bowlers held sway, Matt Taylor, Ryan Higgins and Benny Howell all beating the bat was startling regularity to build pressure and provide Miles and Payne with the support they needed.
Taylor accounted for Rob Newton and Ben Cotton in returning figures of 2-19 from nine overs, while Higgins was rewarded for his persistence when bowling Saif Zaib, with Howell claiming the key wicket of Alex Wakely, caught behind for 17.
No doubt eager to press home their advantage, Northamptonshire’s seam bowlers were frustrated by the elements thereafter.