Ben Sanderson took four wickets and slugged 36 from No. 11 to put Northamptonshire on top against Sussex after a first day’s play where 20 wickets fell at Wantage Road.

After surprisingly contesting the toss and choosing to bat first, Sanderson’s 4-32 helped bundle the visitors out for just 118 and then from 111-9, his entertaining batting then pushed Northants to 171 all out and gave them a very useful advantage.

The ball swung and there was some inevitable help from a September wicket but by no means a pitch that should have delivered two complete innings within a day. Both sides bowled well and both sides, after good starts, failed to show any determination to occupy the crease.

Sanderson’s first act of the day was to hurry Sussex out for a paltry total as they slid away from 58-1 after the ball was changed. He struck twice in two balls just before lunch – nipping one back to beat Laurie Evans’ drive to remove his off stump for a smartly-compiled 34 before Delray Rawlings edged his first ball to Ricardo Vasconelos at slip. Chris Jordan survived the hat-trick ball. After lunch, Sanderson received an easy return catch from a Ben Brown leading edge before trapping Ollie Robinson LBW.

Sanderson gained plenty of support from Brett Hutton, whose 3-41 saw him pass 150 first-class wickets, and Ben Cotton – who produced the most eye-catching of the wicket with a delivery that jagged back markedly off the seam to take out Luke Wells’ off stump.

With only 118 to bowl at, Sussex gained a perfect start when Ricardo Vascenlos edged to second slip for a fifth-ball duck but at 63-1, the home side looked set to take control of the game but again the ball was changed and again wickets started to fall.

Ben Curran, who went smartly to 36, flicked at Abidine Sakande – playing his first match of the season – and was taken by a retreating extra-cover before Charlie Thurston, 29 in his second first-class match, lost his off stump to one that moved away.

Alex Wakely, Luke Procter, Adam Rossington and Rob Keogh all fell cheaply, but just as Northants were about to be rolled over, Sanderson cracked six boundaries and a straight six off Sakande – fitting on such a barmy day. He and Cotton, who made an unbeaten 24 with three fours of his own, added 60 for the tenth wicket to give Northants a useful advantage of 53.

Sent in again for five overs before the close, Sussex survived 4-0.