Lancashire endured a tough opening day at the office in their final LV= County Championship match of the season against Somerset at Taunton today.
The James Hildreth-inspired hosts bossed day one, reaching a commanding 314-5 from 104 overs after Glen Chapple lost his 13th toss out of 16 and was asked to bowl first on a flat pitch by opposite number Alfonso Thomas.
Somerset recovered well from 20-2 and 89-3 thanks in the main to a season-high score of 161 not out off 274 balls from Hildreth.
He and new England Twenty20 international Jos Buttler shared a frustrating stand of 170 inside 51 overs for the fourth wicket on a flat pitch.
But the visitors fought back impressively during the evening session as spin duo Gary Keedy, who finished with 2-56 from 25, and Simon Kerrigan put the squeeze on to restrict the scoring rate.
Lancashire were hindered as Chapple struggled through the day with a left hamstring injury. He left the field twice, bowling off a shortened run up for the majority of his 14 overs, which cost 43 runs and brought two early wickets.
Keedy said: “To lose the toss at Taunton, they’re always going to bat. The wicket over the years has proved to be a good one, so we were expecting a tough day.
“We came off at lunch quite happy with 90-3, we dropped a catch, but they played well in the middle session.
“Towards the end of the day, to keep them at three an over on that wicket and with a lightning fast outfield, we’ve done a reasonable job at 300-5. It would have just been nice to have them one or two more wickets down.
“We’re going to have to roll our sleeves up and get stuck in.
“Whatever we bowl them out for, we can either match or go past. Then anything can happen second innings. The odd ball’s spinning, but slowly.
“We’ve got to remember what we’re playing for. No-one’s going to lie down. Whatever it takes, whether it’s till the last ball, we’ll be scrapping.”
Somerset went 41 overs without a boundary between the 53rd and 94th over as Keedy got Buttler for 68 and Peter Trego for one, reducing the score from 259-3 to 265-5 in the 87th. Buttler was caught and bowled with a full toss and Trego caught at cover by Tom Smith.
It was just a shame for Smith that he had earlier dropped Hildreth on 21 at second slip off Luke Procter’s bowling earlier in the day, a sharp chance at knee height as he dived to his left.
“Tom’s one of our best slip catchers, but Hildreth didn’t put a foot wrong apart from that,” said Keedy. “He batted brilliantly. It was a patient innings, and the others just batted around him.”
Lancashire made a superb start to the day even though Chapple had yet again lost the toss.
The skipper struck in the seventh over of the day when he had Alex Barrow caught behind by Gareth Cross before Smith had Chris Jones caught by Steven Croft in the gully to leave the score at 20-2 after 13.
Hildreth and opener Arul Suppiah then shared 69 for the third wicket, but Chapple bowled Suppiah just before lunch despite carrying his injury.
That, however, preceded a forgettable afternoon session for the Red Rose, who conceded 142 in 36 overs without taking a wicket.
Hildreth brought up only his second hundred of the season off 118 balls with a six over mid-wicket off Keedy.
The right-hander then had the patience to see out Keedy and Kerrigan when they were on top, bringing up his 150 off 252 balls.
Craig Meschede will resume tomorrow morning on 24 not out, the pair on the cusp of a sixth-wicket half-century stand.
With regards to Chapple, he intends to play as full a part in the game as he possible can do over the next three days.
And Keedy added: “The way he was hobbling around, it doesn’t look too good. But, if we can get a few more overs and wickets out of him, that might be good enough.”
Meanwhile, leaders Warwickshire, who were three points clear of Lancashire heading into the final round of fixtures, started their match against Hampshire well at the Rose Bowl. Varun Chopra and Shivnarine Chanderpaul both scored hundreds as they closed the day on 296-3 from 96 overs.