VVS Laxman hit his second County Championship century inside a week to help Lancashire record maximum batting points against Hampshire at the Rose Bowl.
The Red Rose county ended the third day on a commanding 487-4 in reply to the home side’s 337 all out, and have on a chance of forcing victory on tomorrow’s final day even though the pitch is still pretty docile. They currently lead by 150, and they are expected to bat on in the morning. Laxman will resume on 135, having already faced 175 balls and hit 19 fours and one six.
“It was very, very satisfying because getting back to back hundreds is always a great feeling,” said the 34 year-old from Hyderabad.
Tom Smith fell five runs short of his maiden County Championship century in the first over after lunch following a second wicket partnership of 152 with Mal Loye, who also recorded 61. Left-handed Smith hit 14 fours in 171 balls, but was devastated when he edged David Griffiths behind to wicketkeeper Tom Burrows, whilst Loye followed in the next over, trapped lbw by Hampshire captain Dimitri Mascarenhas.
Prior to last week Championship match against Yorkshire, Lancashire had only claimed the maximum five batting bonus points once in their last 28 LV= County Championship Division One matches, but just like London Buses, you wait ages for one and then two come along at once.
Laxman, who offered up a caught and bowled chance to Liam Dawson on 82, continued: “It was certainly good to bat on. We had a very good foundation after Mal and Tom had a very good partnership. It was unfortunate for Tom that he missed out on a well deserved hundred.”
Hampshire tried to halt Lancashire, trying everything and anything. Their two spinners, Imran Tahir and Dawson, got absolutely nothing out of the track before the likes of Michael Carberry, Jimmy Adams and James Vince were called upon. Pace bowler Griffiths was the pick of the Hampshire attack with figures of 3-74 from 22 overs.
When Smith and Loye departed, Lancashire’s chances of victory were looking slim – they are still looking unlikely considering the nature of the pitch – but Laxman and Mark Chilton shared 216 for the fourth wicket in 50 overs.
Chilton recorded 81 off 163 balls, including eleven fours, before he fell in exactly the same fashion as Smith, caught behind off the bowling of Griffiths.
Captain Mascarenhas employed nine bowlers in all. Only wicketkeeper Burrows and former Lancashire skipper John Crawley, who today announced his intentions to retire at the end of the season, did not bowl.
Francois du Plessis added 38 not out against some pretty friendly bowling before close as he and Laxman shared an unbroken 57 for the fifth wicket.
“We are in a very strong position,” said Laxman. “Hopefully we can put some pressure on the Hampshire batting line-up. If we can do that, then I think that we will be very comfortable by tomorrow evening.”
While the Red Rose can dictate terms tomorrow, they will be hoping that the pitch breaks up rapidly to give some hope to spin twins Gary Keedy and Stephen Parry.
Graham Hardcastle reporting from the RoseBowl
Photo: VVS Laxman by SImon Pendrigh