Lancashire CCC - Specsavers County Championship
The opening day of the home season proved to be an eventful one as Lancashire, dismissed for 109 despite an excellent half century by stand-in skipper Liam Livingstone, hit back well to have Somerset on 153-8, just 44 runs ahead in this Specsavers County Championship encounter.
With captain Steven Croft remaining side-lined by an injury to his thumb, Livingstone continued to lead the side for this game against Somerset who arrived at Emirates Old Trafford having lost their only game of the season against Essex last week.
James Anderson returned to the sideand Rob Jones made his first start of the season in the two team changes from last week’s draw against Surrey, with Shiv Chanderpaul missing due to a hamstring injury and Simon Kerrigan left out as Lancashire opted to play a fourth seamer.
That the Lancashire batsmen struggled after Tom Abell exercised the visitors right to bowl first was due to some excellent seam bowling from the Somerset attack who found plenty of movement off the pitch in overcast conditions.
Josh Davey struck first, moving the eleventh ball of the morning away from Haseeb Hameed’s forward defensive push with the resultant nick caught by wicketkeeper Steven Davies before a run had been scored. Alex Davies followed one run and two overs later when edging Davey to the safe hands of Marcus Trescothick at second slip.
Luke Procter and Liam Livingstone responded positively with five boundaries in their partnership of 34 before the loss of four wickets for seven runs in 33 balls put Somerset firmly in charge.
A superb, accurate spell of 3-18 in 7 overs by Craig Overton did the damage with Procter edged behind having made 24, followed by Jones lbw for 0 and Dane Vilas, also lbw, for 4. When Ryan McLaren departed shortly afterwards for 2, edging Tim Groenewald to Dean Elgar at first slip, Lancashire were deep in trouble on 42-6 just after one hour into the day’s play.
Livingstone and Jordan Clark battled with great determination to reach lunch on 64-6 with the Red Rose captain hitting six boundaries but playing with extreme caution as the ball continued to jag about.
Increasing cloud cover saw the floodlights in use for the first time when play resumed, and Somerset were soon enjoying further success when Clark mistimed a drive off Overton to give Abell a straightforward catch at cover to leave Lancashire on 75-7.
Stephen Parry lobbed a catch back to the bowler to record the fourth duck of the innings and give Overton another wicket while Kyle Jarvis edged Groenewald to Trescothick at slip for 1 to leave Lancashire on 84-9.
By then Livingstone had gone on the attack, twice hitting Davey to the mid-wicket boundary before launching an Overton delivery high onto the Pavilion balcony to reach his half century in spectacular style from 88 balls.
Livingstone then ramped Groenewald for four and hit Overton twice to the fence before perishing to a catch by Jack Leach on the square leg boundary to be the last man out for a valiant 68 out of a total of 109. Credit however must go to the Somerset bowlers who exploited the conditions perfectly with Overton taking 5-47, Groenewald 3-8 and Davey 2-33.
Trescothick and Elgar survived some close calls against the bowling of Anderson and Jarvis before settling in to post 42 for the opening partnership of the Somerset reply. The introduction of McLaren into the attack in the run up to tea brought the breakthrough as the Red Rose overseas player struck twice, Trescothick edging behind to Davies for 20 and Abell palpably lbw for 1 to a delivery that nipped back.
The final over of the session was eventful with James Hildreth striking Procter for three fours followed by four leg byes before the batsman played on from the final delivery for 12 to leave Somerset on 63-3 at the break.
That became 67-4 four overs into the evening session when Steven Davies, having made 1, edged an Anderson delivery to namesake Alex. It was just reward for the England pace bowler who regularly beat the bat without reward for most of the afternoon.
Elgar moved on steadily to compile his half century from 111 balls, well supported by Peter Trego in a partnership of 52 runs that steered the visitors past Lancashire’s first innings score.
The persevering McLaren hit back to claim a third wicket when he had Trego lbw for 19 to make the score 119-5, and then Procter struck twice in two balls to dismiss Lewis Gregory lbw for 9 and Davey caught at second slip by McLaren as this eventful day took another twist with Somerset 134-7, ahead by only 25 runs.
In fact it was hard to keep McLaren out of the action as the tall right arm all-rounder next beat Overton’s forward defence to claim a fourth wicket to reduce the visitors to 145-8.
Opening batsman Elgar was still there at the close, 66 not out with Leach 1 not out, as Somerset finished the day on 153-8, leading by 44 runs with an intriguing second day in prospect.
Lancashire fought back well on the second day of this Specsavers County Championship match thanks to half centuries from Alex Davies and Liam Livingstone to reach the close on 152-2, 17 runs behind Somerset.
Following the clatter of wickets yesterday, we had a complete contrast in weather, conditions and performance at Emirates Old Trafford today with just four wickets falling during the six hours of play.
With eighteen wickets falling yesterday in cloudy conditions on a wicket that dried out slowly and gave assistance to both pace bowling attacks throughout, the sunny conditions and a more placid surface made batting a much easier prospect today.
Dean Elgar and Jack Leach gratefully took advantage to put the visitors firmly on top, the pair adding 125 runs to their overnight 153-8.
After successfully resisting the early exchanges against James Anderson and Ryan McLaren, the Somerset duo extended their alliance to 96 runs over the course of the morning. Leach batted with great assurance to reach his maiden first-class half-century from 131 balls when cutting Jordan Clark for his eighth boundary fifteen minutes before the scheduled lunch break. Attempting to repeat the shot off the next delivery, Leach instead nicked a bottom edge to wicketkeeper Alex Davies to depart for 52.
The fall of the ninth wicket extended the morning session by thirty minutes during which Tim Groenewald helped Elgar reach his century, the opening batsman getting to the landmark from 205 balls with eleven fours and his innings, particularly during the troublesome conditions yesterday, was outstanding.
Groenewald became the last man out shortly after the resumption, bowled by Kyle Jarvis for 20, with Elgar carrying his bat for 113 not out and Somerset, 278 all out, led by 169 runs with their last two wickets contributing 133 runs.
Lancashire’s second innings started poorly with Haseeb Hameed playing an uncharacteristically loose shot outside off, edging Lewis Gregory to Peter Trego at first slip after scoring 7 and Luke Procter soon followed, bowled by the same bowler for 4 to leave the score on 23-2.
Alex Davies and Liam Livingstone battled back either side of tea adding fifty in just one hour for the third wicket and gradually the pair took the attack back to the Somerset pacemen who were starting to find that bowling conditions were far tougher than twenty-four hours earlier.
Davies reached his half-century off 108 balls when cutting left arm spinner Jack Leach for four while Livingstone got to his second fifty of this match from 101 balls with a lovely cover drive off Groenewald, the pair mixing some determined defence with a range of attacking cricket throughout the late afternoon.
The century partnership arrived from 192 balls and the pair were still there at the close, Davies on 74 and Livingstone 56, and their alliance of 129 extremely valuable runs has brought Lancashire right back into this match, just 17 runs behind going into the third day.
Ryan McLaren reflected on an eventful couple of days in changing conditions.
“The sun seems to have baked the wicket a bit today,” he said. “It’s definitely still doing a bit, but a bit slower than yesterday.
“Any day when you see 18 wickets go suggests that there’s a lot in it for the bowlers, which there was, but now on day two our fight back with the bat has got us a bit more into the game. Hopefully we can try and bat as long as possible tomorrow, put up a competitive score and then see what happens on day four.
“You would have thought that after that first day and being 169 behind after bowling them out, we would be up against it. But things have happened much slower today and if we can get good partnerships tomorrow we can try and put up a big score and give ourselves a chance in the fourth innings.
And McLaren has been impressed by the fighting qualities shown by his new teammates.
“In the first two games we’ve controlled the game, despite being 50-5 at Surrey, we’ve put ourselves in winning positions. This one has been the other way round. We’ve had to claw ourselves back, which is something the guys have prided themselves about in the past, and it’s definitely showed again in this game.
Lancashire’s overseas player was naturally delighted to have contributed, taking four wickets on the first day.
“You have to make use of the conditions on offer as a bowler,” he said. “Judging on how the last few games have gone and also last season, it’s been hard work. It’s been tough to bowl out teams and get twenty wickets. So you want to make use of these conditions as a seamer.
“As a unit it’s nice to take wickets and personally to take four wickets, but if you look at how Jimmy (Anderson) bowled, on another day he or someone else could have ended up with the same results. For me it’s all about how we perform as a bowling attack and I thought we did that pretty well.
McLaren is determined to contribute some runs to the Red Rose as well, adding “it’s been slow progress with the bat so far, but I feel like I’ve still got a lot to offer with the bat. Hopefully that comes as the season goes along.
“But I’m pretty happy with how the ball’s coming out and I’m trying to just be as consistent as possible and hopefully the results will come.”
Lancs eye final day victory push after duo centuries boost
Outstanding centuries by Alex Davies and Liam Livingstone brought Lancashire right back into this Specsavers County Championship match at Emirates Old Trafford, to underpin a terrific Red Rose fightback, establish a 254 run lead with three wickets in hand and look at the chance to push on for a victory against Somerset going into the final day tomorrow.
Resuming the second innings on 152-2, Davies and Livingstone knocked off the remaining deficit of 17 runs during the first half hour of the day, Livingstone square cutting Josh Davey for four to take Lancashire ahead.
The pair’s 150 partnership for the third wicket from 53 overs followed soon afterwards, absolutely vital runs that had slowly but surely brought Lancashire right back into this game.
It wasn’t all plain sailing for the Red Rose duo with the occasional delivery staying low and Livingstone also received a nasty looking blow to his hand from a sharply rising delivery from Craig Overton that required treatment.
Davies moved on steadily throughout the morning to reach his second century of the season off 218 balls with 13 fours and he was soon followed to three figures by his partner when Livingstone launched a delivery from Jack Leach into the stands at mid-wicket-which also brought up the 200 partnership.
It was Livingstone’s second maximum after the first had earlier cleared the stands in the same location off the same bowler. The century was his third for Lancashire and his fifth in a remarkable last twelve months which included two for England Lions last winter, and had taken 192 balls.
It was an outstanding contribution by the pair who reached lunch with the score on 258-2 and showed the growing maturity of Lancashire’s young talent with 23 year-old Livingstone and 22 year-old Davies playing with great assurance and determination to drag this game back for their side.
Livingstone had spoken earlier about the need to “graft and put a price on every wicket” and this desire was amply demonstrated today.
In fact the first wicket of the day did not fall until 2pm when Davies was lbw to Gregory for 130, bringing to an end a partnership of 245 runs forged across 76 overs that left Lancashire 99 runs ahead and right back in the game.
Rob Jones then played a nice innings of 35 to support his captain’s effort, helping to add 86 for the fourth wicket, while Livingstone-still in some apparent discomfort from the blow to his hand earlier-continued to dominate.
Jones and Dane Vilas both departed lbw to Overton in the same over immediately before tea and Livingstone went shortly after the resumption to a standing ovation, caught by Dean Elgar off the bowling of Leach for a career-best 168 that had spanned 7 hours and 5 minutes with the Red Rose 360-6 and now ahead by 191 runs.
Jordan Clark was stumped for 5 off left arm spinner Leach, who was finding an increasing amount of spin as the day wore on, which meant four wickets had fallen for 25 runs but a steadying partnership of 44 in 18 overs between Ryan McLaren and Stephen Parry during the final hour halted any aspirations Somerset may have had of forcing a collapse.
McLaren finished the day on 35 not out and Parry 22 not out to complete a very good day for Lancashire who are 423-7 going into the final day and 254 runs ahead.
Liam Livingstone and Alex Davies enjoyed a 245 run partnership that has turned the game around for Lancashire.
“We really enjoyed it,” said Davies. “We bounce off each other and keep each other going. If we make the odd mistake, we tell each other!
Two centuries in three matches for the batsman/wicketkeeper means Davies has made a great start to the season, and he added: “It was a special moment at Essex (getting my first hundred) but it (today’s century) doesn’t mean much unless we push on and win tomorrow.
Having missed a whole chunk of last season due to injury, Davies is also relishing being back in the action.
“It was a tricky period for me,” he said, “but if anything it makes you that little bit more hungry. It makes you enjoy playing more. It’s good to be out there and I can’t really ask for much more than the start I’ve had this season.”
“I want to bat high up in the order. I don’t want to be the ‘keeper that bats at number seven. And I believe I’m good enough to bat high in the order and it works best for the team at the moment that I open the batting. When Chappy approached me, I said yes straightaway.”
Temporary skipper Liam Livingstone, while delighted to reach a career-best score today, has his focus firmly on tomorrow’s final day.
“The pitch is still a fairly decent pitch,” he said, “but it is definitely getting worse. We’ve got ourselves into a decent position considering where we were.
“We’ve played good cricket to get to where we are and all we can do is get ourselves in a good position with the bat in the morning and give ourselves the best chance to bowl them out.
“That’s the motivation we used yesterday and again this morning. If we can win this game from the position we were in it would be a very special win. That’s what we are going to look at tomorrow. “