His 7-43 against Northamptonshire inspired a fine fightback at Wantage Road, where victory could confirm Yorkshire’s place in Division One ahead of next week’s final group match against Lancashire at Headingley, depending on events elsewhere.
As Yorkshire reached 159-6 at stumps on day two, leading by 147 in their second innings, Bess had some happy milestones to savour.
His figures eclipsed his previous best of 7-117 for Somerset against Hampshire at Taunton on only his fifth first-class outing in 2017.
They were the best for Yorkshire since Ryan Sidebottom took 7-37 against Somerset at Headingley in 2011, and they were the best by a Yorkshire spinner since Phil Carrick captured 7-35 against Glamorgan at Sheffield in 1978.
They were also the best by a Yorkshire off-spinner – Carrick having been of the left-arm variety – since Geoff Cope, the current Yorkshire president, took 8-73 against Gloucestershire at Bristol in 1975.
All in all, not a bad day’s work for the talented 23-year-old, while Harry Brook, 22, led the way with the bat, contributing an excellent, unbeaten 76, his highest score of the Championship season, an innings which has given Yorkshire the edge in a low-scoring contest.
“I was very happy with how it came out,” said Bess, who took six wickets in the day and whose full analysis was 24.4-11-43-7. “I’m just as pleased with how we’ve got ourselves back into the game.
“It’s about making sure we keep chipping away at increasing our lead and, when we get the ball back in our hands, putting them under as much pressure as we can.
“Anything up around 200 will be a really tricky chase.”
One of cricket’s greatest cliches is the “big first hour”, and how the visitors needed one when play began in pleasant sunshine.
Northants were 61-2 in reply to Yorkshire’s first-innings total of 158 – one that looked significantly short of par, with only young opening batsman George Hill (71) emerging with credit.
But the Northamptonshire batting is nothing to write home about, and having lost two wickets just before stumps on day one, after an opening stand of 54, one always sensed that Yorkshire’s bowlers, as they have so often done, could compensate for the failings of Yorkshire’s batsmen.
So it proved, with Bess the catalyst on a biscuit-coloured surface which favoured the spinners, but not excessively so.
All the same, it took a helping hand from Northants to set him on his way and Yorkshire on the path to a far better day.
The hosts had started menacingly well, Ricardo Vasconcelos and nightwatchman Gareth Berg looking comfortable as they lifted the total to 88 after half-an-hour’s play.
But a brain fade from Berg triggered a collapse, the batsman dancing down the pitch in an unnecessary effort to hit Bess over the top, the ball skying tamely to Steve Patterson at mid-off.
It opened a door which Bess proceeded to blow off the hinges, having Charlie Thurston caught behind pushing forward and Vasconcelos also taken behind the stumps by a juggling Harry Duke, the Northants captain undone as he tried to cut and departing for the top score of 55.
Duanne Olivier had Rob Keogh guiding to second slip as Northants fell to 110-6 – effectively 110-7, with Luke Procter absent due to family reasons.
Tom Taylor hit a useful, unbeaten 42, but Bess wrapped things up not long after lunch, pinning a static Saif Zaib lbw, trapping Wayne Parnell in similar fashion and having Ben Sanderson caught low at slip.
Having had their designs on a match-winning advantage, Northants finished with one of just 12 after being bowled out for 170.
Yorkshire lost three wickets for two runs in three overs to slip to 24-3 in their second innings, Hill bowled through the gate by left-arm spinner Simon Kerrigan, who then had Sam Northeast stumped by Vasconcelos when the batsman fractionally raised his back leg. It has not been a happy debut for Northeast, who has started his loan spell with scores of three and one.
It has not been a happy match either for Adam Lyth, who followed his first innings duck with an innings of five, brilliantly caught behind by Vasconcelos, one-handed to his left, as he pushed forward at a ball from Sanderson.
Gary Ballance was adjudged lbw prodding forward to Kerrigan, leaving Yorkshire 64-4, and Bess was another lbw victim when he tried to work left-arm pace bowler Parnell to leg, which saw the visitors slip to 105-5.
But Brook played with skill and no little sense, reaching his fifty from 83 balls, and Jordan Thompson gave him solid support in the run up to stumps after Duke had been bowled by Kerrigan.