Worcs' spin pair Moeen Ali and Shaaiq Choudhry put the skids under Lancashire's batsmen at Old Trafford today
When Paul Horton was asked to assess Lancashire's first innings score against Surrey last week, he replied with characteristic shrewdness: "We won't know until both sides have batted on this wicket."
A similar argument can be advanced, albeit from a different perspective, by anyone attempting to judge the quality of Ben Scott's century on the first day of this game. It appeared a very decent effort on Wednesday evening; 24 hours' later, after Lancashire had been bowled out for 162, conceding a first innings lead of 129, it looked a colossal monument of application and technique on a pitch which has turned and bounced.
And it may turn out to be the innings which brings Worcestershire their first win in eleven Championship matches since they annihilated Glen Chapple's side at New Road late last summer.
This was another tough day in what is turning out to be a tough summer for Lancashire. From the moment Stephen Moore lofted Moeen Ali to Shaaiq Choudhry at deep mid-on in the 21st over and departed for 24, the Worcestershire spinners dominated proceedings in a bewitching fashion. Both Ali and Choudhry got plenty of help from the Old Trafford pitch and they used it in a fashion which made it difficult to believe that they had taken only six Championship wickets between them this season.
The pair returned career-best hauls, off-spinner Ali taking six for 67 and slow left-armer Choudhry claiming four for 38. By the close of a rain-wrecked evening session the Worcestershire openers Daryl Mitchell and Phillip Hughes had made 9 for no wicket, a lead of 138.
“It has not gone how we wanted it to," said Simon Kerrigan. "Worcestershire have batted and bowled better than we have.
“It does get easier to bat when the ball gets softer, it doesn’t kick as much. And we have quality batsmen in our side who can bat a long time like Paul Horton and Ashwell Prince, so there is still a chance for us."
Perhaps so, but only a last wicket stand of 43 between Simon Kerrigan and Kyle Hogg ensured that Lancashire saved the follow-on after a succession of home batsmen had been beaten by the visiting spinners' persistence, accuracy and turn.
Most of the damage to the Lancashire innings was done in a 25-over spell either side of lunch in which Chapple's men collapsed from 65 for one to 119 for nine. Choudhry had Paul Horton lbw on the front foot for 34 just before the break and the home side's decline gathered pace after the resumption. Ashwell Prince was beaten by Ali's turn and edged to Scott for one and Karl Brown was stumped for nine attempting to take the attacking route by hitting Choudhry off his length. That reverse left the home side on 86 for four.
Steven Croft was unable to repeat his heroics of Wednesday, the right-hander's back foot defensive shot being beaten by Choudhry's sharp turn, and Tom Smith's sweep off Ali only found the safe hands of Richard Jones as backward square leg.
Gareth Cross, Chapple and Ajmal Shahzad were all caught at short leg by Matt Pardoe in the space of eight deliveries from Ali as the Worcestershire spin duo turned the screw on the Lancashire tail.
Fortunately for the home spectators, Kerrigan and Hogg had a little more good fortune than some of their colleagues and the No11 hit a six off Ali in his 20, which was his second-highest first-class score.
Eventually, though, Kerrigan was bowled attempting to hit Choudhry over the top, leaving the Worcestershire spinners with combined figures of ten for 105. Hogg made 21 not out, the third highest score of the Lancashire innings.
“The wicket was a bit damp on the first morning and we thought that when it dried out it would flatten out for a couple of days and then turn on the last day," said Kerrigan.
“We haven’t played too much Championship cricket at Old Trafford in the last two years so we didn’t really know what it was going to do. We have to be patient with the ball now."
Day 1 Report
Photo: Moeen Ali - career best 6 wicket haul (c) Simon Pendrigh
Article (c) Lancashire CCC Ltd