Lancashire CCC - Specsavers County Championship
Lancashire and Middlesex produced an absorbing battle on the first day of this Specsavers County Championship match at Southport & Birkdale Sports Club with the home side much the happier of the two, bowling the visitors out for 180 after losing the toss and then reaching the close on 123-4.
In fact it was a hard day of county cricket with runs at a premium on a wicket that had something in it for the bowlers throughout.
“To bowl them out for 180 was a great effort, having lost the toss,” said Saqib Mahmood.
Mahmood-playing in just his third first-class match-took three wickets today, following the three he picked up in last week’s Roses match, and the young fast bowler said: “I’m happy with that.”
“I got called up to the side due to a few injuries, so you want to make the most of it. I’m learning every time I’m playing and picking things up in every spell. So it’s all going really well at the moment.”
Assessing the day Mahmood added: “We were going to bat (if we won the toss) but as a bowler I didn’t mind bowling first.
“To come away with four wickets in the first session and then to bowl them out in the second session was a great effort from the lads.”
Mahmood didn’t think that it was a wicket where you would expect fourteen wickets to fall on the first day, saying: “I think there’s been a lot of soft dismissals. I don’t think it’s that bad a pitch, despite what the scores might suggest.”
“You have to work hard on it and you will get the rewards.”
The Red Rose side made a good start with Tom Bailey and Mahmood producing fine opening spells to reduce Middlesex to 38-3 inside the first hour.
Mahmood was nearly unplayable at times and was eventually rewarded with the wicket of Nick Gubbins when the Middlesex opener edged down the leg side to wicketkeeper Alex Davies for 1.
Davies then took a good diving catch in front of first slip after Sam Robson, on 15, fenced at a Bailey delivery that seamed away while Dawid Malan carelessly pulled Bailey straight to Shiv Chanderpaul at fine leg after making just 2.
Steve Eskinazi and Paul Stirling rallied to add 34 runs for the fourth wicket before Eskinazi edged Ryan McLaren behind to Davies having made 30.
Middlesex lunched on 102-4 with Stirling and John Simpson extending their alliance to 71 runs from nearly 15 overs in the afternoon before the visitors collapsed from 143-4 to 180 all out.
Stirling, who had earlier pulled Mahmood for six over mid-wicket, fell for 49 after advancing down the wicket to the same bowler but he only succeeding in glancing the delivery down the leg side to wicketkeeper Davies.
Franklin then chopped a Mahmood delivery onto his stumps for 1, Harris was brilliantly caught down the leg side off Jordan Clark by Davies diving to his left for 6, and the Red Rose wicketkeeper collected his sixth catch of the day when Toby Roland-Jones nicked Clark behind in the same over for 4.
Davies’ six catches fell one short of the Lancashire first-class record for dismissals in an innings held jointly by Bill Farrimond, Warren Hegg and Luke Sutton.
Tim Murtagh went next for a duck, fending a short ball from McLaren to Croft at third slip, and last man Ravi Patel holed out to Stephen Parry at deep square leg off Clark for 5, the sixth wicket to fall in 13 overs for the addition of 37 runs.
Simpson, who had watched the clatter of wickets from the other end, was the mainstay of the Middlesex innings with an impressive half century but he was left stranded on 53 not out when the innings came to a close on the stroke of tea.
It was a fine performance by the Lancashire attack with Clark taking 3-36, Mahmood 3-63, McLaren 2-26 and Bailey 2-47.
But the Lancashire innings started disastrously, as two wickets fell in the first over bowled by Murtagh.
Davies edged the second ball behind to Simpson while Liam Livingstone nicked his first to the wicketkeeper to leave Lancashire reeling on 0-2.
Haseeb Hameed and Steven Croft mounted a determined rear-guard action and the pair slowly but surely compiled the longest partnership of the day thus far in adding exactly 50 runs in 17.1 overs before Hameed became the fourth batsmen of the day to depart to a leg side ‘strangle’ off James Harris and give Simpson his third catch after making 18.
Croft had settled in well in making 31 but the Red Rose skipper then fell to an excellent diving catch by Patel at deep cover to give Murtagh a third wicket with Lancashire 74-4.
Chanderpaul (28 not out) and Dane Vilas (24 not out) dug in with a determined partnership that spanned the remaining 16 overs to steer Lancashire to the close on 123-4, just 57 runs behind.
Mahmood is hopeful Lancashire can build a substantial lead from this position, saying: “I think if we can come back tomorrow and have a good start, we can get a good foundation to our innings.
“After being 0-2, I think the lads have done a great job rebuilding with the partnerships between Has and Crofty and then Shiv and Dane towards the end of the day.
“Hopefully we can kick on in the morning.”
Lancashire are well placed to clinch a second Specsavers County Championship victory of the season and inflict the first defeat in 21 matches on Middlesex after a dominant display on an eventful third day at Southport & Birkdale Sports Club.
The defending Champions last four-day loss came in the final game of the 2015 season and they will do well to avoid defeat after closing on 156-6 in their second innings just 27 runs ahead of Lancashire going in to the final day.
Steven Croft’s side played well with both bat and ball today, establishing a significant first innings lead and then taking six Middlesex wickets before the visitors managed to bring the scores level.
“It was a very good day,” said Ryan McLaren whose 75 runs and partnerships with Jordan Clark and Tom Bailey helped Lancashire establish what looks to be a match-winning advantage.
“The original aim was to get close to their target,” he said. “Once we got there it was to try and get as many, and as big a lead, as possible.”
“To have a lead of 129 put us in a great position. I just never felt ‘in’ on that wicket. You really have to graft for your runs and accumulate as many as you can.
“So to get them six down at the close, we were very happy with that.”
Facing a first innings deficit of 129 runs midway through the day, Middlesex made the worst possible start losing Nick Gubbins after the opener edged a sharply rising delivery from Saqib Mahmood to wicketkeeper Alex Davies for 1.
Sam Robson and Steve Eskinazi rallied with 59 run partnership from 15 overs either side of tea before Stephen Parry turned the ball past Eskinazi’s attempted drive to hit off stump, the batsman having made 34 of the visitors’ 64-2.
Robson followed when he drove McLaren to Croft at backward point having scored 42.
Parry then claimed two wickets in one over to put Lancashire firmly in charge.
Paul Stirling had made 12 when Parry beat his forward defensive push to have his lbw appeal successfully upheld and three balls later John Simpson inside edged on to his pads with Dane Vilas snapping up the catch at short leg to leave Middlesex on 99-5.
Saqib Mahmood produced the perfect yorker to knock back James Franklin’s off stump before the visiting skipper had scored to add further damage to the Middlesex second innings on 110-6.
Dawid Malan finally brought the scores level when he pulled Mahmood for 4, and the left hander was the mainstay of the innings in making an unbeaten 45 by stumps with James Harris 15 not out.
“The wicket is still difficult to bat on,” added McLaren. “It’s not offering as much movement as it did in the first innings but there’s still enough there to keep any seamer in the game. It’s about being disciplined and accurate as Tim Murtagh showed.
“Pazza has bowled well too and that allows us to rotate the seamers.
“The first session tomorrow will be crucial.”
Middlesex enjoyed early success with the ball at the start of the day, Lancashire resuming on 123-4 but losing two early wickets to Murtagh. Shiv Chanderpaul edged the bowlers’ second delivery of the day to Robson at first slip without adding to his overnight 32, and Vilas did likewise to Franklin at first slip for 27 in Murtagh’s second over of the morning.
It was a big setback to Lancastrian ambitions of obtaining a first innings lead with the score on 136-6 but McLaren and Clark battled with great skill and determination in adding 62 for the seventh wicket in the face of some excellent, accurate bowling from the Middlesex seamers who found bounce and movement throughout.
In tough batting conditions McLaren and Clark initially defended, adding 22 runs in 12 overs to slowly chip away at the remaining deficit before starting to accelerate once they had settled in, reaching parity with Middlesex after a flurry of six boundaries in four overs brought the scores level in the 66th over .
Clark had struck 5 fours in making 38 but was trapped in front by Murtagh from a ball that appeared to keep a bit low, while Parry edged James Harris to Malan at second slip for 4 to leave the Red Rose side 217-8 at lunch.
The game swung firmly in Lancashire’s favour during the afternoon thanks largely to an attacking partnership of 87 from 20 overs between McLaren and Bailey.
The pair greeted the arrival of the new ball with a flurry of attractive shots, taking 25 from two overs from Murtagh and Toby Roland-Jones, and their 50 partnership arrived from just 11.3 overs to steer the Red Rose to a second batting point as the visitors’ largely three-man bowling attack showed signs of wilting.
“With the type of player Jordan is, he’s a natural striker of the ball,” was McLaren’s assessment. “You get the best of him in that situation by encouraging him to play his shots because he naturally puts bowling attacks under pressure.
“You want to take that responsibility of batting time and build a partnership, but at the same time having him as a partner speeds up the innings while I can try and absorb the pressure and bat time.”
McLaren reached his own half-century with his seventh four the ball after he was dropped at slip off Ravi Patel while Bailey drove with great conviction to take Lancashire in sight of another batting point.
Murtagh finally broke the stand when McLaren inside edged onto his stumps for 75 to give the bowler his sixth wicket of the innings with Lancashire on 291-9.
Last man Mahmood helped Bailey reach the 300 landmark before the innings ended in extraordinary fashion.
Bailey top-edged Harris for six over fine leg while in the process of ducking a bouncer to go to his second first-class half century and followed that by authentically pulling the next delivery for another six onto the adjacent railway lines to reach his career-best score of 58.
Harris was successful with the next ball when Bailey flicked him to Eskinazi at deep mid-wicket to bring the innings to a close on 309, while Murtagh finished with the fine figures of 6-63 from 28 overs.
“Bails played some serious cricket shots,” said McLaren. “It’s really promising having a guy coming in at number ten playing the strokes that he did.”
A first Specsavers County Championship five-wicket haul by Stephen Parry led Lancashire to an eight wicket victory over defending Champions Middlesex at Southport & Birkdale Sports Club today.
Lancashire take 22 points from the victory and Middlesex 3 points.
Stephen Parry was thrilled by a tremendous few days for the Red Rose.
“Especially after losing a day to the weather,” he pointed out. “It’s been an excellent performance.”
Lancashire have responded well after losing their last match against Yorkshire and Parry said: “We were obviously disappointed with the Yorkshire defeat. We didn’t bowl as well as we wanted.
“The way we’ve bounced back here, it shows what sort of a group of players we have here. They are resilient and we can now start looking at the top of the table, rather than the bottom.
“We want to try and force our way up that table.”
Parry was naturally delighted with a ‘five-for’ saying: “It’s nice to contribute.”
“I’m really enjoying the four day cricket and the challenges, and being around the first team all the time. I feel lucky to be doing it, so I’m trying to make the most of it.
“I’m doing what I’ve done for years (in terms of his bowling style), trust my own method and it’s worked.
“I always believed I could do it, I just needed the opportunity. I could have gone elsewhere (in the past) but I’ve stuck by it, and getting rewarded now.
“I was happier with my wickets yesterday because it was a really tough spell and I did a job for the team.
“If we all have that mentality we will be a hard team to beat.”
Ryan McLaren and Tom Bailey bowled searching spells when Middlesex resumed their second innings on 156-3 this morning and it was McLaren who made the breakthrough by finding the edge of James Harris’ bat, the batsman having contributed 19 to a seventh wicket partnership of 59.
McLaren then took the key wicket of Dawid Malan for 52 with a delivery that followed the batsman-who could only nick it behind to give Davies a ninth catch in the match-and leave Middlesex 180-8.
Toby Roland-Jones and Tim Murtagh combined to frustrate Lancashire with a ninth wicket partnership 49 in 8.2 overs, the pair combining some good hitting with some good shot selection as they pushed the visitors’ lead up to 100.
Parry halted their charge with two quick wickets to end the innings on 236, the left arm spinner finishing with figures of 5-45.
First Murtagh was stumped for 27 by Davies, a career-best 10th victim in the match for the wicketkeeper and the second highest for Lancashire in first-class cricket behind Warren Hegg’s record of 11.
Parry then trapped Roland-Jones lbw for 31 to leave Lancashire facing a victory target of 107.
The Red Rose eased to that target without too many problems, although Davies departed for 13 just before lunch caught behind by Simpson to give Roland-Jones a first wicket in the match.
Liam Livingstone, celebrating his call-up to the England T20 squad, thumped the first ball of the afternoon over cover for four and added three further boundaries before edging Roland-Jones behind to Simpson for 22 with the score 49-2.
Haseeb Hameed with 38 not out and Steven Croft (34 not out) ensured victory with a patient partnership of 62 inside 19 overs that saw Lancashire ease to their target in mid-afternoon, Croft finishing proceedings in style with a straight six off Ravi Patel.
“It’s a massive game next against Hampshire”, said Parry. “We’ve got a few days now to get ready for that, and it’s an exciting prospect.
“It’s always hard to get a win (in this league), but they’ve got a few people missing as well.
“You’ve always got an eye on the bottom end of the table if you’re honest, because 25 per cent of the teams in this league are getting relegated.
“We’ve got more freedom to start thinking about the top of the table. We play Warwickshire under lights after the Hampshire game and you don’t know what might happen there. We might have Jimmy (Anderson) and Jarv (Kyle Jarvis) back soon. If we do our bowling attack will be stronger and can help us force a win there.”
Lancashire head coach Glen Chapple was also pleased with the response of his side.
"We faced a challenge after Yorkshire and I think we've come through that brilliantly," he said.
"The lads have put out a great team performance and defeated a team that haven't been beaten since 2015 so we're delighted with that.
"When you face your first loss of the season it's always a mental challenge and we're fairly confident that we've been playing good cricket this season so it's always nice to comeback from a loss with a performance like that.
"Ryan McLaren is looking really solid with the bat and hits great lengths with the ball so both his areas are in good nick and he's starting to really fire for us.
"We've got a good lower order so we can always extend the innings and we got a good lead on a pitch here that had a bit of life in it.
"I felt the lead was potentially match winning but it's never done until it's done and today we knew it required a lot of effort because we didn't want to chase much more than 100.
Chapple was quick to point out how quickly things can change in the first division, adding: "there's eight good teams in this division. One week you can beat last year's champions, so you can't make any predictions. You've just got to work hard.
"After a win you take a lot of confidence and we'll take a lot of belief from this. You have result pitches at out grounds but to beat a good team like Middlesex still requires a lot of work."