Northamptonshire 291-9 (Holden 68 not, Duckett 53, Newton 50, Davis 4-55)
A day that ebbed and flowed at Derby today, with late runs from Alex Hughes and Tom Milnes edging Derbyshire to a decent first innings tally. By early afternoon, with the visiting openers putting on a hundred, it didn't look close to enough, before persistent bowling, loose shots and fine catching reduced them to 171-8. Matt Holden and Nathan Buck then put on a crucial stand of 89, before Jeevan Mendis got his second wicket of the day.
There were four wickets for Will Davis, who continues to look a terrific prospect and two for Shiv Thakor, who worryingly had to leave the field with an ankle injury in the final session. The absence of Viljoen's bazookas was felt, but Derbyshire can be pleased with a position of parity at this stage.
There were two puzzles for me today. Luis Reece bowled as first change, but never got an over afterwards, suggesting that he was either injured or oddly ignored. Meanwhile, Alex Hughes never turned his arm over at all and his skiddy medium pace may have been just the thing to break that ninth wicket partnership, given opportunity.
What we do appear to have is an excellent close catching combination, with Madsen, Smit and Hughes taking good slip catches and Wilson a good one down the leg side. Only nineteen extras conceded to the visitors 47 too, but we will want to finish the innings quickly tomorrow and not have too great a deficit to claw back on a wicket that continues to offer something for the bowlers.
Its a funny game. Sometimes as a captain you have the wrong bowlers on. Other times you have them on, but at the wrong ends. Today we struck a combo that worked after lunch and looked to be well on top - until that final session, when we rather let them get off the hook.
Where does it go from here? Well, we will need a lead over 250 on the final day and then hope that the wicket dries enough to help our Sri Lankan leggie. The batting will again be tested by a keen Northamptonshire attack tomorrow and must show similar resilience to the first innings.
Game on, for sure and if this close contest is a sign of things to come there will be few complaints by the end of the season.
Especially if we come out on top at the end...