RIKI Wessels made an unbeaten 84 but Worcestershire crashed by 10 wickets midway through the third day of the County Championship Division Two match with Northamptonshire.

Wessels batted with power and aggression in striking one six and 11 fours in 91 balls at Wantage Road.

He came to the wicket on 95-5 and helped the County avoid the innings defeat and total 223 all out.

Northamptonshire needed a modest 34 target which they achieved without loss in the fifth over through 17 each from Ben Curran and Robert Newton.

The second-from-bottom County faced an uphill battle after fine bowling by Brett Hutton and Ben Sanderson on the opening morning.

They also lost paceman Josh Tongue to a side strain but Northamptonshire never relinquished their early grip on the game  and they leapt up to second in the table.

Worcestershire have lost six and drawn three of their last nine Championship games after starting off with two wins.

County coach Alan Richardson said: “We’ve been outplayed for the duration of the game.

"We had glimpses of some good performances from individuals but collectively nothing anywhere near sustainable enough to compete.

“We haven’t produced at the top of the order this season. We backed ourselves to get through the first session of the game but couldn’t do that.

"Brett bowled really well but you have to battle it out and build because from there the wicket was good for a day and a half.

“They did the basic things for longer than we did and when that happens it makes it very difficult.”

Worcestershire played with positive intent on the third morning after resuming on 42-4 and added 143 runs for the loss of four wickets.

Moeen Ali and club captain Joe Leach, who had come in as nightwatchman, set the tone with a partnership of 66 in just 15.2 overs.

They lifted the total to 95 when Leach (27) swept firmly at spinner Rob Keogh and was lbw.

In the same over Moeen’s assured 40 ended after Wessels tickled a Keogh delivery down to fine leg.

Moeen went looking for a third run and failed to make his ground after Hutton’s throw found wicketkeeper Adam Rossington.

It became 112-7 when Ben Cox (5) was bowled by a delivery from Dwaine Pretorious which came back in and kept low.

Wessels was full of aggression, twice sweeping Keogh to the boundary and pulling Pretorious for four.

Ed Barnard was an able partner as the eighth-wicket pair brought up the half-century stand off 63 balls.

Barnard had moved on to 18 when he was lbw deep in his crease to a delivery slanting across him from concussion replacement Blessing Muzarabani at 166-8.

Lunch was delayed by 15 minutes as the umpires felt a positive result could be obtained in that period.

But Wessels had time to complete his half-century off just 56 balls with six fours helped by four overthrows.

By lunch he had moved on to 52 and Wayne Parnell seven out of 185-8 from 54 overs.

But Parnell (7) was bowled by another low delivery, this time from Muzarabani.

Wessels had moved to within 16 runs of his century when last man Tongue (2) pushed forward to Keogh and was pouched at first slip.