Northamptonshire 64 for 3 (Leach 3-28) trail Worcestershire 277 (Cox 74, Whiteley 66, Leach 51, Azharullah 4-68) by 213 runs
Joe Leach made a valuable half-century and then took three wickets to give Worcestershire the better of the opening day at Wantage Road as Northamptonshire closed 64 for 3, trailing by 213.
Leach's first contribution was an unbeaten 51 to help Worcestershire post 277 - a fine comeback having been 54 for 5 in the morning session. He then removed Ben Duckett, lbw for 4, Rob Keogh, caught behind also for 4, and Rob Newton, held at first slip for 15, to ensure the visitors ended the happier of the sides after winning the toss.
It was an impressive turnaround after Ben Cox and Ross Whiteley shared 129 for the sixth wicket to revive the Worcestershire innings. Having taken lunch 63 for 5, runs flowed after interval with the sun out. Whiteley was first to his fifty - his fourth of the season - brought up in 60 balls with eight fours and a slog-swept six off Seekkuge Prasanna. Cox followed in 82 balls with his seventh four, edged to fine third man.
It was a positive partnership made in 30.3 overs but both batsmen fell within five overs of each other. First Whiteley was beaten by a Steven Crook delivery that clipped his off stump and then Cox was held at second slip off the third ball of Ben Sanderson's new spell.
Sanderson went on to trap debutant George Rhodes lbw for 14 and Prasanna picked up a wicket when he bowled Ed Barnard. But Leach provided a second batting point with three consecutive boundaries off Azharullah and a tenth-wicket stand worth 50 with Matt Henry. He raised a third consecutive Championship fifty in 67 balls with three fours
Leach completed a handy comeback after a morning session where Worcestershire were in danger of being fired out very cheaply.
Azharullah took four wickets in his opening nine-over spell. He struck with his first ball of the morning with an inswinger to take out Daryl Mitchell's leg stump. Two misjudged pushes followed with Brett D'Oliveria caught by a diving Prasanna at square leg and Joe Clarke forcing to Saif Zaib at extra cover. Tom Kohler-Cadmore then edged an away-swinger to wicketkeeper David Murphy to give Azharullah a fourth wicket.
Tom Fell looked fairly steady at No. 3 for the visitors. He took 16 balls to get off the mark but settled to drive Azharullah and then Crook for boundaries. But to the second ball of Sanderson's new spell he shouldered arms and lost his off stump for 37. It took Cox, Whiteley and then Leach to rescue Worcestershire's day.