Northamptonshire v Yorkshire, Northampton, 3rd day August 3, 2012

Willey earns Northants valuable lead

Jon Culley at Northampton

Yorkshire 249 (Jaques 75, Daggett 3-64) and 5 for 0 trail Northamptonshire 352 (Peters 107, Willey 76, Rashid 5-105) by 98 runs

Yorkshire have not been beaten in the Championship but haven't won a match since May, which is of much greater significance in their quest to return to Division One. After losing more than 40% of their playing time to the awfulness of this summer, you could hardly blame them for feeling a tad frustrated. But maybe their own shortcomings would have caught up with them anyway.

They were lacking something, certainly, as Northamptonshire pulled away from them in the final session on day three. Yorkshire were nicely placed when rain ended the morning session early, going to lunch with a lead of 14 after taking four wickets for 60 runs as Northants progressed uneasily to 235 for 7. By the close it was a different story.

Thanks in large measure to an enterprising and entertaining 76 from David Willey, a career best from the left-arm seam bowler, Northamptonshire turned a position of vulnerability into one of strength, converting that deficit into a lead of 103. Yorkshire will do well to emerge from this match with a victory, which will only heap pressure on them going into their final four fixtures, the first of which is against the Division Two leaders, Derbyshire. With Hampshire and Kent breathing down their necks with games in hand, and the distraction of Twenty20 finals day looming, they can ill afford to let their focus blur.

It seemed to become a little fuzzy during the three and a quarter hours lost to the weather here. They had bowled well during the morning, Adil Rashid in particular. The legspinner, confidence bolstered, continued where he had left off on Thursday, giving little away and adding two more wickets. Moin Ashraf, in a testing spell from the Wantage Road End, took two in two balls and came close to a hat-trick. But the evening session tended to reinforce the suspicion that Yorkshire's bowling lacks a cutting edge.

Rashid finished with five wickets - for the first time in the Championship since the first match of last season - but could not pin down Willey, who has an aggressive side that you would expect in one of his pedigree. He chose a good moment to record his fifth first-class half-century and overtake his previous best of 64: his father, the redoubtable Peter, was on the ground for an ex-players' reunion.

Willey's partnership with wicketkeeper David Murphy added 73 in 18 overs, claiming two batting points along the way. Rashid broke them up when he had Murphy leg before and had the last word against Willey, whom he bowled through the gate. That wicket completed his five, and snatched an extra bowling point for Yorkshire with four balls to spare, but Oliver Stone, the 18-year-old in only his second Championship innings, countered with his fourth boundary three balls later to secure Northamptonshire's fourth batting point.

All this built handsomely on the century completed by Stephen Peters in the morning, the first of what has been a lean season by his standards. High expectations accompanied Peters as a young man and, while it might be argued that he has not fulfilled them completely, at 33 he is an accomplished opening batsman and a prolific scorer. This was his 28th career century.

His 85-run partnership with Rob Newton ended when the latter edged Ashraf to first slip in the fifth full over of the morning. Ashraf struck with his next delivery as Andrew Hall missed a full, swinging ball, and failed by a whisker to have James Middlebrook leg before with his hat-trick attempt, the ball straying a fraction to leg.

Middlebrook, going back to a ball bowled with a little more pace, became Rashid's second victim and Peters the third when Joe Root held an extraordinary catch at forward short-leg, somehow ending up with the ball in his hands after ducking to protect himself from a full-blooded pull. At that point, Yorkshire occupied the higher ground.

Now they are at the bottom of the hill again, trailing by 98 runs. With only a day left, and the strong possibility of more overs lost, it should not be difficult for them to extend their unbeaten run. But with the jostling for a promotion place becoming urgent now, it isn't really enough.