It's a funny old game! Lancashire would have been cursing their luck when Australian overseas star Simon Katich suffered a nasty blow to his right temple just before the start of play against Hampshire in the LV= County Championship at the Ageas Bowl this morning.
But they ended up thankful for an excellent 93 not out from his replacement Andrea Agathangelou as they closed the first day in reasonable shape at 252-9 from 81.3 overs.
Katich was floored by a ball which reared up off a length in the nets and burst through his helmet grille, meaning he had to spend the morning in hospital having tests. Thankfully they came back all clear, and he is expected to return for next week’s clash with Gloucestershire at Liverpool.
Agathangelou certainly made the most of his chance, though. And he needs the help of last man Simon Kerrigan in his pursuit of seven more runs tomorrow to record a maiden Championship century.
Agathangelou hit 14 fours and a pulled six off James Vince’s medium pace in 156 balls before rain and bad light robbed him of the opportunity to celebrate three figures over dinner this evening.
While Katich was being treated at Southampton General Hospital, his Lancashire team-mates were struggling despite winning the toss and scoring 28 runs off the first two overs of the match.
Seamer David Balcombe’s first over went for 21, including three no balls, but he recovered to take five wickets to reduce the Red Rose side to 182-8 in the 60th over. In fact, his first three legitimate balls went for 21.
It meant that Luke Procter, who finished with a valuable 53, and Stephen Moore added 54 inside eleven overs for the first wicket before the latter was caught at third slip by Vince off James Tomlinson for 30 moments after being dropped by Liam Dawson at second.
Dawson, however, ended the day with three catches at second slip. Seven of the nine wickets to fall went to either wicketkeeper Michael Bates or his colleagues in the slips.
There is certainly enough help on offer off the pitch to keep Lancashire’s bowlers interested, and they will still be confident of making it three wins from five come Sunday evening. After all, they beat Glamorgan and Essex recently having been bowled out for 123 and 177 in their first innings.
“I've got a lot of faith in Simon to stay at the other end,” said Agathangelou, who settled quickly at the crease as he set about a fluent innings. “Fingers crossed I can carry on doing what I'm doing.
"I got a late shout about 25 minutes before the start of play. It was very unfortunate, but I was happy to get my chance. It's tough getting into the side, so it's nice to finally get a chance.
"We would have liked a few more wickets in the bank. But, from where we were, it's a big pat on the back to all the lads. We fought back quite hard. It's a good cricket wicket. There's always something in it for the bowlers and the batsmen.”
Agathangelou, aged 23, shared crucial stands of 49 with Steven Croft for the fifth wicket and 43 with Glen Chapple for the ninth.
South African-born with Cypriot parentage, the right-hander has played squash to provincial level in South Africa as well as rugby and hockey. His father ran a 100m Olympic qualifying time of 10.3 seconds aged 17 before breaking his leg.
His previous best Championship score was 24 against Somerset at Liverpool last August.
"Physically I'm still the same type of player, but I've made a big mental shift since then. That's the only difference,” he added. "I owe a lot of it to one of my life coaches. His name's William Badenhorst, and he just did a lot of work with me in breaking through my barriers. It's helped me a lot.”
Agathangelou may also get the opportunity to show off his new style of off-spin bowling this weekend. Part of his winter playing club cricket in South Africa saw him change from leg-spin to off-spin as he felt it gives him more control and consistent threat.
First, however, he has a job to do with the bat. He has a deserved century to capture.
Photo (c) Simon Pendrigh