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Kerrigan to the four
Kerrigan to the four
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Ian Blackwell made the headlines with the first century of the season, but Simon Kerrigan, with 4 wickets, led Lancs fightback at Abu Dhabi today

Lancashire were rewarded for their endeavours in the field with five quick wickets after tea as they enjoyed a productive first day of their four-day match against the MCC at the Zayed Stadium..

The Red Rose county, celebrating their LV= County Championship title success with a first-class fixture in the desert, had started well by reducing their opponents to 73-4 after losing the toss.

But Durham all-rounder Ian Blackwell, who is making his third appearance in four years in this fixture, frustrated them through the middle session and a bit either side with a battling century.

Blackwell top-scored for his side with an unbeaten 102 off 145 balls, though he saw his team-mates undone by some high-class bowling from Kerrigan, the 22 year-old England Lions player.

The MCC, who went into tea at 223-5, quickly slipped to 266 all out as Kerrigan struck twice to add to two wickets for Sajid Mahmood and one for Steven Croft. Kerrigan finished with 4-65 from 18 overs.

Blackwell later struck as both Lancashire openers, Paul Horton and Stephen Moore, departed before close, the score at 38-2.

"It was a good experience and a good run out for the lads," said Kerrigan. "It's been a good day for us. There's a bit in the pitch. It seemed to go through periods of being flat, but it's pretty tough to bat on if the bowlers nail their areas.

"266 is a par score, maybe a bit below. Hopefully we can get a lead and bowl well in the second innings. If we do, we'll be in with a shout."

Mahmood struck in the second over after tea when he had Ireland's Niall O'Brien caught at second slip by Tom Smith, and that was followed an over later by Lewis Gregory's dismissal, caught Gareth Cross bowled Croft to leave the score at 227-7 in the 67th.

Gareth Batty followed, caught at slip by Horton off Kerrigan, before Rana Naved-ul-Hasan was bowled round his legs by the same man and Alan Richardson was bowled by Mahmood (2-43 from 15.1) to wrap up the innings. 

Despite starting the match in the blazing heat, the Red Rose enjoyed a profitable first session by gaining four wickets.

Glen Chapple, playing his first match of the tour, struck as early as the third over when he forced Glamorgan's Gareth Rees to feather a ball angle across him through to Cross behind the stumps.

MCC skipper Mark Ramprakash was next to go, bowled by Kerrigan for just seven. It was the left-arm spinner's third ball, and the score now 29-2 in the 12th over.

Stephen Peters and Hamish Marshall, of Northants and Gloucestershire respectively, then added 39 in eight overs for the third wicket as the new ball seemed to lose a bit of its fizz on a track offering decent pace and carry.

But Kerrigan ensured Lancs regained the upper hand when he had Peters (32) well caught by Tom Smith at backward point, leaving the MCC three down for 68.

And Smith, Lancashire's fifth bowler used in the first 19 overs, added the fourth wicket of the morning - and second in five balls - when he uprooted Marshall's middle stump, 73-4 now the score.

Blackwell then steadied his side with a couple of eye-catching strokes before the break, and continued to accrue the runs after it.

Lancashire deserved more for the efforts in the middle session of the day, only picking up the one wicket as Blackwell and Worcestershire's Moeen Ali more than steadied their side's ship by sharing 95.

Blackwell was strong on the sweep against the spin of Kerrigan and Keedy, even gaining two fours with the stroke in three balls off the former in the 46th over, while Moeen looked comfortable for the majority of his stay at the crease.

But things changed as day became night, with the pink ball seemingly doing a bit more through the air. Chapple brought himself back on and struck when Moeen shouldered arms and lost his off-stump.

Blackwell and O'Brien then survived a number of plays and misses and edged the odd ball wide of or through the slip cordon, just about making it to tea without too many more alarms.

Blackwell reached his ton off 138 balls, including 16 fours before his side lost five wickets for 43 runs as spin prospered.

Horton was then caught behind off Rana and Moore trapped lbw by Blackwell before close. Karl Brown and night-watchman Gary Keedy will resume tomorrow as the temperature is predicted to soar into the high thirties.

Graham Hardcastle
Photos (c) Graham Morris
Article (c) Lancashire CCC