A career-best 138 not out from Adam Rossington has put Northants in a position to push for their first win of the season in the Specsavers County Championship.
The 23-year-old, who was playing as a specialist batsman because of an injury to his left hand, hit five sixes and 16 fours in an impressive display to help his side establish a first innings lead of 300 against Sussex at Arundel.
They declared on 478 for five, but Sussex openers Ed Joyce and Chris Nash successfully negotiated 24 hours before stumps to reach 70 without loss, still 230 behind with a day to go.
The experienced pair adopted a risk-free approach against attacking fields with Nash unbeaten on 36 and Joyce 28 not out.
Rossington had earlier helped Northants speed towards their declaration 25 minutes after tea on the third day in an unbroken stand of 199 in 39 overs with wicketkeeper David Murphy, a sixth-wicket county record against Sussex, beating the 178 by Rob Bailey and David Ripley at Northampton in 1990.
The former Middlesex batsman was particularly savage on leg-spinner Luke Wells, hitting him for four sixes before swiping Ajmal Shahzad over the long-on rope. Murphy gave him good support with an unbeaten 60 (6 fours) as batting conditions eased on a pitch lacking pace.
Sussex had a glimmer of hope just after lunch when they reduced Northants to 279 for five, but on a wicket offering their seam attack little margin for error they failed to make the most of the second new ball as Rossington grew in confidence.
The day had started well for Sussex. Ollie Robinson drew Alex Wakely (46) with the first ball of the second day and had the Northants’ skipper caught behind, but the visitors regained the initiative in a punishing third-wicket alliance of 119 in 27.3 overs between Rob Keogh and debutant Sean Terry.
Former Hampshire batsman Terry, who is on non-contract terms with the County, improved his chances of a permanent deal by scoring 54 only to give it away just before lunch when he hit Harry Finch to deep mid-wicket.
Keogh batted well for his 75, compiled in just under three hours with 11 fours, only to lose concentration just after lunch when he tamely prodded forward to Shahzad and was caught behind.
Northamptonshire’s lead was 101 at that point but Rossington and Murphy extended it impressively during the afternoon session.
Rossington was delighted with his performance, and is hopeful the bowlers can do the business and secure that first Championship win of the season.
“I think it was the most fluent I have batted this season,” said Rossington.
“It’s quite a hard wicket to get in on, but once you’re in the ball came on nicely and it was all set up for me when I went in.
“We were past their score and it was just a case of being aggressive and kicking on.
“The hand feels a bit sore with the odd ball, but once I got in it settled down and it’s just a case of trying to manage it.
“We bowled brilliantly at them without much luck, but hopefully we can get a couple of early wickets tomorrow and push on to try and get that first win of the season.”