Liddle insists Northants 'still in this game' as Higgins ton puts visitors in command
A topsy-turvy day three ended with the visitors in a very healthy position on 326 for six, a lead of 261, with Ryan Higgins rescuing his team from a perilous 21 for four.
Higgins hit an unbeaten 134, and received superb support from Chris Dent (54) and Tom Lace (73) to leave Northants with plenty of work to do if they are going to claim their first top flight win since 2004.
It had all started so well as the County claimed three wickets inside the first hour and have their visitors four down and still 44 runs in arears.
That was mainly down to veteran all-rounder Gareth Berg, who claimed all three victims to add to his invaluable 66 with the bat the previous day.
Berg claimed the key wicket of James Bracey and then dismissed Graeme van Buuren and Miles Hammond, but then entered Higgins to change the course of the day, and possibly the match.
But Liddle, who is also Northants' bowling coach, believes Northants are still very much in with a chance of victory.
“It’s very much a new-ball wicket," said Liddle.
"It seemed to flatten out as the ball got softer. Credit to the lads they’ve run in hard all day.
“Higgins and Lace put on a massive partnership and our bowlers had to keep coming back and bowl spells and spells.
"There are slightly tired bodies but we’re still in this game. A couple of early wickets and we’re in the box seat again.
“We don’t want to get the lead too far past 300. If we can bowl them out below 300 we’ll put ourselves in a good position to set up a run chase.”
Higgins struck four centuries in 2019, but none in the Championship since, and he made up for that at the County Ground.
Dent diligently reached his half-century and was perhaps unlucky to be removed by Berg just after lunch when he was adjudged lbw to a ball that he had looked to work to leg, briefly remaining at the crease after the umpire’s finger was raised.
Higgins then doubled down on his work as he skipped along at a comfortable rate alongside Lace to avoid further loss in the session. Higgins pulled confidently to bring up their century stand in good time before Lace reached his half-century on the stroke of tea.
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 sharp 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.