Northants skipper Alex Wakely has challenged his batsmen to produce something special over the final two days of their Specsavers County Championship Division Two clash with Warwickshire at the County Ground.
The County endured a torrid Saturday as the Bears went about trying to bat their hosts out of the game following Northants’ batting collapse on day one, and they did a pretty good job of doing just that.
Tim Ambrose scored a patient 103 to ensure Warwickshire made 413 all out to secure a massive first innings lead of 266.
The newly-laid outfield at Wantage Road is still settling, so the grass has been left long, and it has led to a slow moving game, but one that Northants are very much second best in at the halfway stage.
“It’s a really tough day, and it’s obviously a really placid pitch,” said Wakely.
“We tried lots of things but with no reward, but it’s our own fault because we were so poor with the bat in the first innings.
“We have to bat for two days now and if someone can get 150 plus, we could do something special.
“I can’t fault any of the bowlers and the outfield is heavy on the legs too, we controlled it well until the final 100 runs.
“Tim Ambrose played a brilliant knock, made it look very easy and we have to learn from that.”
Ambrose made his 17th first-class century to give Warwickshire a chance to press for victory over the County.
His innings helped Warwickshire grind out 413 to take a first-innings lead of 266 before Northants, with 10 overs to face at the end of the day, closed 41 for none.
Ambrose, who made 81 last week against Sussex in the season opener, took his side from a strong position to a totally dominant one as he gained the measure of a slow wicket to work the Northants attack around.
He nudged, prodded, glanced and flicked his way to 96-ball 50 with just one boundary - the long, heavy outfield making boundaries a rarity - before playing more fluently to raise a century in another 58 balls with five fours and a six.
For the latter half of his innings, he had 18-year-old Henry Brookes for company playing just his second first-class match.
He settled to become a sound partner for Ambrose and repelled Northants’ fightback with the second new ball to compile a record ninth-wicket partnership for Warwickshire against Northants of 116.
After Ambrose fell, caught on the deep square fence, Brookes took top billing as he worked his way towards a maiden first-class fifty.
He got there with a mighty pull over midwicket off Brett Hutton and added a second to take Warwickshire past 400 as Northants wilted in 128.1 overs they were forced to send down.
The hosts had hope of a revival in the morning session where Doug Bracewell made the day’s opening breakthrough with the 18th ball of the day, straightening a full delivery to clip Will Rhodes’ off stump to end a stand of 91 for the fourth wicket.
Sam Hain was the other member of the partnership and fell 15 short of memorable return to the ground where he become Warwickshire’s youngest centurion in the County Championship four years ago.
He resumed on 51 and struck two flowing cover drives on his way to 85.
But Ben Sanderson hatched a plot with the wicketkeeper stood up and three catchers in front of bat and got Hain to chip a full delivery to short midwicket where Bracewell claimed a smart catch down to his right.
Matt Lamb developed another useful stand with Ambrose of 66 for the sixth wicket before Lamb fell to the second new ball and Warwickshire slipped to 263 for eightand the lead 116 - but Ambrose and Brookes ensured Warwickshire’s advantage was far greater.
Northants had 10 overs to survive before the close and Rob Newton was almost stumped when he was deceived by Jeetan Patel.
Some pad saved him and Newton and Ben Duckett, who avoided a king pair, went to the close intact.
Warwickshire batting hero Ambrose said: “It was hard work, a slow-scoring outfield and a slow wicket but the lads did really well.
“Henry is a fearless young lad and nothing really worries him and it’s great to bat with him, I didn’t have to change anything.
“The lads really stuck at it today to grind it out and make them tired and really give us a chance to kick on.
“The wicket has maybe got drier and if there’s any movement it’s got lower.
“It’s not going to be easy for us but we’ve got our plans and we’ll get stuck in.”