Lancashire 216 for 4 (Prince 104*) trail Northamptonshire 385 (Crook 91, Clark 4-101) by 169 runs
A 12th first-class century in Lancashire colours from Ashwell Prince kept Northamptonshire at bay on the second day at Wantage Road. The South African veteran's unbeaten 109 took Lancashire to 216 for 4 at close, but with much work still ahead to remain in contention.
Prince had come to the wicket when his side were reeling, thanks to two wickets from Northants' overseas bowler Rory Kleinveldt - himself a former South African international. First Luis Reece edged to wicketkeeper Adam Rossington without scoring off the sixth ball of the innings, continuing his poor form which had produced just 42 runs in his opening two matches.
More worryingly for Lancashire, Alviro Petersen followed eleven balls later after Kleinveldt's vociferous lbw appeal was approved by umpire Paul Baldwin. At 3 for 2, Prince's experience was badly needed, especially since Paul Horton almost ran himself out for 1 and was dropped by Richard Levi off Steven Crook when on 13.
While the pair took Lancashire to 59 for 2 by tea, they soon put on a hundred partnership afterwards. But it was the 37 year-old who provided the class with sumptuous drives off all four of Northants' seam attack. Despite Azharullah removing Horton for 49 and Steven Croft for 7 with two lbw decisions in his favour, Prince was effortless, reaching his hundred off 146 balls - the 42nd of his distinguished career - via a clip off his legs through square leg.
Promising wicketkeeper Alex Davies - 20 years old and at the other end of the cricketing experience charts - produced some sparkling shots at the other end to be 33 not out at stumps.
Earlier in the day, when they resumed on 198 for 6, Northamptonshire must have worried about subsiding, but Steven Crook and Adam Rossington had other ideas. Crook's vicious square cut off the opening ball of the day from Tom Bailey set the tone. 79 rattled off the bat in a highly entertaining first hour, before Rossington was lbw to Clark for 57.
But Crook - playing against his former county - kept going with a judicious balance between caution and aggression. He was aggressive through point off Simon Kerrigan and when the left armer drifted onto the pads, pulled him for two big sixes over the longest boundary at midwicket.
Crook had posted his only first-class century of his career last year at Lord's, against his other former county Middlesex. But despite thirteen boundaries, he was trapped, lbw for 91 - nine runs short of his second ton, when ninth out and so plumb, he almost walked. But Olly Stone and Mohammed Azharullah's partnership added to Lancashire's frustrations, putting on 52 runs for the tenth wicket.
Prince could still play the more pivotal role in this game as he looks to give Lancashire a first innings lead, if the weather holds. He was pleased with the way his side fought back from a poor start to their innings.
"I thought Horton played well again today and that partnership was obviously crucial after the two early wickets," he said. "Then Alex Davies showed his talent too. He's a gutsy player, a good young player and he was aggressive in playing his strokes."
Crook feels that Northamptonshire can still impose themselves on Lancashire when the third morning of this game gets underway.
"It's a good wicket to bowl on. I think it may be a bit up and down over the next couple of days but you've got to be right on the money with the ball or you end up round the park," he said.
"We've got to go in on Tuesday morning and with a couple of wickets for us, we're right in the game."