A Ryan Higgins century halted Northamptonshire’s progress on the third day of the opening fixture in the LV= Insurance County Championship.

Higgins put his stamp on a see-sawing LV= Insurance County Championship contest against Northamptonshire with an unbeaten 134 after he had arrived at the crease with his side facing the prospect of defeat inside three days.

Northamptonshire, aiming for a first top-flight win since 2004, had claimed three wickets inside the first hour to reduce the visitors to 21 for four and still 44 runs in arears.

All-rounder Higgins, without a Championship century in three years, then set about wiping off the deficit in a 77-run stand with Chris Dent (54) before adding a further 165 with Tom Lace (73). By the close on day three Gloucestershire’s lead had grown to 261 with four wickets in hand.

It was a position Gloucestershire could only have dreamed of when veteran all-rounder Gareth Berg had seemingly swung the momentum of the match Northamptonshire’s way with three wickets to supplement his heroics with the bat yesterday.

Berg helped the hosts to a 65-run lead after sharing a 137-run eighth-wicket stand with centurion Rob Keogh and immediately got to work with the ball this morning with the key wicket of James Bracey.

Bracey had himself revived Gloucestershire’s first innings with a century but could only manage eight runs second time round before a leading edge flew to Ben Curran in the covers.

The 41-year-old Berg struck again when Graeme van Buuren was trapped lbw on the crease before Miles Hammond’s loose drive at Ben Sanderson was snapped up by Curran at gully.

Dent diligently reached his half-century and was perhaps unlucky to be removed by Berg just after lunch when he was adjudged lbw, briefly remaining at the crease after the umpire’s finger was raised.

Higgins’ century arrived after tea, and from 139 balls, when he whipped Emilio Gay to the midwicket rope and, after claiming four first-innings wickets, his first taste of Division One with Gloucestershire was firmly going to plan.

Northamptonshire finally managed to end the stand when Gay held a superb return catch to dismiss Lace for 73. It was a timely breakthrough for Northamptonshire, just before the new ball was due, but again Higgins stood firm when it was required.

Higgins remained until the close, with Zafar Gohar alongside him in an unbroken 63-run stand, to set up an intriguing final day when Higgins’ exploits with the ball will likely play a key role as both counties look to end their long waits for a top-flight win.

Gloucestershire 223 (Sanderson 4/66, Berg 2/39) & 326/6 (Berg 3/52, Sanderson 2/58)
Northamptonshire 288 (Keogh 113, Berg 66)

Full scorecard.