Phil Salt’s bristling century set Sussex up for a final day victory push at Northamptonshire. Salt slammed 122 in 104 balls between lunch and tea to help Sussex close 292 for 4, leading by 346.
With a first-innings lead of only 54 after Northants recovered from 267 for 8 to make 368, Sussex were in need of a brisk second innings to leave enough time to take another 10 wickets. The situation was ready-made for Salt, who was called up the England T20 squad two weeks ago, and he delivered with a third first-class century in 90 balls.
He set off in typical positive fashion and drove Ben Sanderson attractively through extra-cover on his way to 58-ball 50 but he enjoyed moments of fortune with several plays-and-misses outside off, an outside edge over the slips cordon and an inside edge past his stumps.
The introduction of Rob Keogh’s off spin sent Salt on the charge - two fours over extra-cover and over the bowler’s head preceded a six over midwicket and another maximum slammed flat over long-on to take him into the 90s before a drive, on the up past mid-off, raised a thrilling hundred in just another 32 deliveries.
Despite approaching tea, there was no halting Salt and he slog-swept Keogh for a third six - a mighty strike out of the ground over midwicket - and swung Jamie Overton over mid-on and then mid-off before top-edging another heave to be caught at point. At that stage he had made 122 of the 170 total.
Inevitably, the scoring rate fell after tea as Luke Wells drove to extra-cover and Harry Finch pulled to deep square and any hopes of a declaration before the close disappeared. Stiaan van Zyl struck three successive fours to pass fifty in 93 balls and played out the day with Ben Brown, who made a 52-ball half-century, to leave an overnight declaration possible.
At the start of the third day, it looked like Sussex would be picking their moment to declare after tea as Northants, resuming 242 for 6, lost Jamie Overton for 19 and Brett Hutton for 2 and were still behind the follow-on mark. Hutton was quickly recalled from a second XI match as a second concussion substitute for Luke Wood, who was hit on the head by Chris Jordan in the final over of day three.
In danger of conceding a huge first-innings lead, Northants produced a fightback led by No. 10 Nathan Buck, who struck just his second first-class fifty. He hit nine boundaries in passing fifty in 68 balls in a ninth-wicket stand of 90 of which Luke Procter made only 9.
Procter slashed Chris Jordan to the cover fence as Northants brought up a fourth batting bonus point and was unbeaten on 49 when No. 11 Ben Sanderson lost his middle stump to Danny Briggs.