Mickleburgh and Browne lead strong Essex reply
Essex 274 for 2 (Mickleburgh 103, Browne 88) trail Northamptonshire 444 (Duckett 189, Newton 75, Bopara 5-95) by 170 runs
Jaik Mickleburghand Nick Browne provided an opening partnership of 195 as Essex batted themselves back into the game at Wantage Road. They closed the second day 274 for 2, still trailing Northamptonshire by 170.
Mickleburgh made his first Championship century of the season and Browne his fifth half-century as the visitors enjoyed a very good day, having quickly bowled Northants out for 444 in the morning session.
Calm and disciplined, playing his third match of the season, Mickleburgh went to his 10th first-class century in 148 balls with 14 fours. His was the more controlled of the two innings from the Essex openers.
Early in the afternoon he survived an edge past third slip and another over first slip as Richard Gleeson probed away but helped provide Essex with a solid reply as the afternoon became sunnier. His first mistake - a loose cut feathering an edge behind off Gleeson - brought his wicket for 103.
The breakthrough came in an excellent spell from Gleeson and Ben Sanderson who bowled eight overs in tandem for just seven runs. Mickleburgh's error was followed in Gleeson's next over by Browne, who chipped straight to midwicket 12 short of a century.
Browne was far more fortunate than his partner, dropped twice by Ben Duckett at first slip. The first chance was above Duckett's left shoulder when Browne was on just 5, Ollie Stone the unlucky bowler. His second reprieve was a far more straightforward chance when on 27, this time Sanderson was denied.
But Browne was also the more pleasant stroke-maker of the openers, driving particularly well down the ground for several of his nine fours and a six over long-on off Rob Keogh. He punched his bat in frustration at having lost his chance of a century.
The two wickets for five runs was the only blot on Essex's day as Tom Westley and Ravi Bopara - dropped on 17 by Sanderson at square-leg - built a stand of 74 for the third wicket to the close.
The morning session went perfectly for the visitors as they took the final five Northants wickets for 68 runs inside 19 overs. Ravi Bopara completed his second five-wicket haul of the season as Northants were bowled out for 444.
Bopara's three wickets in eight balls on the first evening brought Essex back into the Northants innings and he took just six more balls on the second day to claim another - Josh Cobb lbw without adding to his overnight 49.
The morning quickly got better for Essex as Matt Quinn took his maiden County Championship wicket, having David Murphy sharply held in the gully by Mickleburgh, and added a second when Stone edged to second slip.
Aaron Beard finally struck to remove Sanderson and Monty Panesar was last out for 5. Northants' only contribution with the bat on day two came from Gleeson who made a valuable unbeaten 27 from No. 9 to boost the total but the hosts lost their last eight wickets for 100 runs.