Sam Whiteman and Luke Procter shared Northamptonshire’s highest partnership of the season to give their side hope of forcing a crucial LV= Insurance County Championship win against fellow strugglers Middlesex at Merchant Taylors’ School.
Whiteman batted most of the day for his majestic knock of 114, adding 158 with his captain for the third wicket after Emilio Gay had limped off injured.
However, the opener later returned to the middle, scoring a valuable unbeaten 84 that enabled the visitors to set another record by posting 372 for seven, their highest red-ball total of the summer and an overall lead of 314.
Northamptonshire resumed their second innings just three runs behind the home side and wiped out that deficit when Gay flicked Ryan Higgins to long leg in the second over of the morning.
Minutes later, however, the opener was hobbling off in the direction of the dressing room, after irritating a troublesome knee that saw him miss the start of the 2023 campaign.
The skipper registered his side’s first boundary of the day, clipping opposite number Toby Roland-Jones neatly to the rope as both he and Whiteman proceeded to take advantage of wayward deliveries on the leg side.
There were no alarms for either of the pair as they extended their side’s lead to 51 before rain arrived around 12.30pm.
With lunch taken early, only 20 minutes were lost and the Australian continued to make steady progress as he brought up his half-century, pulling Ethan Bamber to the fence at square leg.
The home side rotated their bowlers – including eight overs of Sam Robson’s occasional leg-spin – without success and Whiteman’s edge wide of the slips off Roland-Jones for four lifted the partnership into three figures.
Another downpour later in the over triggered a further delay at 161 for two but, once the players re-emerged, Procter completed a watchful half-century, his second of the campaign, from 135 deliveries.
Middlesex took the new ball at the earliest opportunity, reverting to an all-seam approach and they finally claimed the day’s first wicket in the 63rd over when Procter cut uppishly at Helm and Josh de Caires took the catch at deep third.
Gay, who restarted his innings on 24, appeared to be unhampered by his earlier injury and promptly pumped two leg-side fours off Higgins before dancing down the track to slam De Caires for six.
Whiteman advanced to his hundred from 220 balls, driving Helm off the back foot for three as Northamptonshire began to accelerate and he eventually lost his off stump to Roland-Jones, attempting to pull a ball that kept very low.
Saif Zaib was pushed up the order to lift the rate but soon followed, caught at point after miscuing a reverse sweep off De Caires, who will consider himself fortunate to have also collected the wicket of Tom Taylor, adjudged caught after the ball ballooned of the wicket keeper’s gloves.
Keogh came to the middle seemingly with a point to prove after sliding two places down the order. He looked composed and positive from the start, running well and finding the boundary to reach 48 at greater than a run a ball. He was well supported by Gay to propel the total beyond 350 in a partnership worth 80 before communication broke down and a mix-up saw Keogh run out in the final over of the day.
Northamptonshire will return on Day 4 with a lead of 314 and look to press home the advantage and secure a crucial victory.