Lancashire had half-centuries from Ashwell Prince, Steven Croft and Glen Chapple to thank for digging them out of a major hole on the opening day of their LV= County Championship campaign against Warwickshire at Old Trafford.
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The Red Rose, who had been invited to bat by Bears skipper Ian Westwood, slumped to 14-4 inside seven overs as England Lions seamer Chris Woakes took advantage of some early movement by snaring three wickets.
Woakes got rid of Tom Smith, Paul Horton and Stephen Moore cheaply, and all were caught in the slip cordon by either Ian Bell or Jonathan Trott. Bell was in action again when he clung onto Chilton off the bowling of left-arm quick Neil Carter.
Carter also claimed three wickets, but 3-44 from 20 overs for Woakes proved to be the pick of the figures.
The key partnership as far as the hosts were concerned came between Prince and Croft, who shared 133 for the fifth wicket in 38 overs either side of lunch to help them reach 253 all out inside 86 overs.
Jimmy Anderson then boosted the hosts with the ball when he bowled Varun Chopra in his second over. Warwickshire closed on 13-1 from eight overs in reply.
Head Coach Peter Moores said: “It was a hard fought day’s cricket. From where we were at 14-4, we’d be happy that we came out with a score of 253.
We also managed to get a wicket tonight which helped to set up tomorrow. We will compete hard and put them under some pressure.
“Woakes bowled well. We didn’t play and miss, we tended to nick it. That sometimes happens. It was tough, but Ashwell and Steven calmed the game down, and Glen got us through to the second bonus point.”
South African left-hander Prince top-scored for Lancashire with 82 off 153 balls, including eight fours and a straight six off Imran Tahir, while Croft added a useful 64 and Chapple 54 not out.
Prince and Croft made batting seem a lot easier either side of the break. Croft, who had survived three strong lbw shouts from Carter early in his innings, brought up his half-century two overs after lunch and Prince’s came shortly afterwards.
But both fell within the space of ten overs to halt their side’s recovery. Croft slapped a friendly Naqaash Tahir delivery to Chopra at point to leave the score at 147-5 in the 45th over.
And then Prince pulled a Carter short ball straight down the throat of Naqaash at deep square leg in the 55th.
Luke Sutton (33) and Chapple navigated their side beyond 200 in the midst of a seventh wicket partnership of 59 before the wicketkeeper was caught by Jim Troughton at backward point off the medium pace of Trott in the 78th.
Anderson was bowled for a duck in Trott’s next over, and Lancashire were back in trouble at 227-8. Imran snared Simon Kerrigan and Carter had Sajid Mahmood caught in the slips by Rikki Clarke to complete the innings.
Moores added: “There is plenty in the wicket, and if we bowl well it is going to be tough for them as well. The ball is going through with good pace and carry. Jimmy bowled beautifully, he has good rhythm at the moment, has good control - and is moving the ball both ways. It makes him a handful to face.”
Meanwhile, Andrew Flintoff batted in the Old Trafford nets today for the first time since his knee surgery last August. The all-rounder faced a few gentle throw-downs from assistant coach Gary Yates.
Graham Hardcastle at Old Trafford
Photos: Simon Pendrigh, Peakpix Digital Images
(c) Lancashire CCC Ltd