Northamptonshire 426 (Duckett 193) and 140 for 4 (Levi 54*) beat Sussex 172 (Kleinveldt 5-50) and 393 (Archer 81*, Robson 72, Nash 66, Wiese 61) by six wickets
The result was sealed 24-hours later than expected, but Northamptonshire ensured they finished four strong days with a win. Instead of an innings, it ended up being by six-wickets. Sussex, barring the fightback late on the third day, were never really in control of this match. As such, what looked a well-timed promotion push from them is in danger of falling short.
Sussex had picked up six wins in eight games leading up to this fixture. Both sides now sit on 156 points, a game in hand on Worcestershire, who pulled off a fine win at Trent Bridge to give them a 36-point cushion.
A 127-run stand between Jofra Archer and David Wiese kept Northamtonshire at bay on day three and day four's major obstacle for the hosts was the weather. Rain greeted both sets of players as they arrived at Wantage Road and, while play started at 10.30am, only three overs were bowled before more rain took us to an early lunch at midday.
However, the hail predicted from 1pm onwards failed to materialise and, in bright sunshine, Northamptonshire sealed the match. The final wicket of Sussex's follow-on innings came when Danny Briggs tamely pulled Mohammad Azharullah to the only fielder within spitting distance on the leg side. That left Archer high and dry - and a bit peeved - on a new career-best of 81 not out. Sussex led by 139.
It was a crumb of comfort for Archer, who struggled to get into the game with the ball, taking 2 for 118 in the match from 33 overs. He was wayward on day one, allowing Northants to get off to a brisk start. The home batsmen had identified Archer as someone to get after, sensing he might lose his way if put under pressure.
While their plan worked, a dip in form at this stage of the season is understandable. He has been one of the standout bowlers in the country, with 56 Championship wickets at an average of 23.19. Only Simon Harmer, the Essex off-spinner, has bowled more than his 413 overs.
A target of 140 was never going to be too much trouble, given how well that pitch was playing. It was the sort of total that required just one score of note and Richard Levi ensured it would come from him, finishing the chase with an unbeaten 54. Missing out in the first innings when he was caught at square leg on 44, he made no mistake this time around: a third half-century of the season brought up from 61 balls, featuring five fours and a huge six off Danny Briggs into the Lynn Wilson Centre. He was dropped at point on 43 by Briggs, when he slapped Archer firmly in the spinner's direction. But even if the catch had been taken, the result was a foregone conclusion.
"It's probably our best win of the season, in my opinion," said Northamptonshire head coach David Ripley. "Sussex had the best of the conditions, bowling on the first day when it was very overcast. The quality of our batting on the first day, to get us into a good position and then the quality of our seamers: over the four days, it's the best we've played all season." Northamptonshire picked up the maximum 24 points, having achieved full batting points for the first time in 2017.
Sussex head coach Mark Davis conceded that the game had been lost on day one. "We chose to bowl first and conditions didn't suit us: the ball got wet and was hard to bowl with. But we lost control and we need to be better than that.
"To score 400 on that pitch was far too many and that set the rest of the game up. Then, had we got 250-280 in the first innings, we could have put them under more pressure on this final day but ultimately we didn't play well enough on day one."
Early wickets - and a lot of them - were Sussex's only hope. While four came, they were spread out enough to mean Northants were unlikely to panic. Ben Duckett top-edged a hook to Ben Brown to make it 46 for 2, then Wakely thumped one to Angus Robson for the third. As the captain walked off, only 50 more were needed. Josh Cobb emerged when Luke Procter was caught down the leg side, flayed 22 and won the game with a four down the ground.