Fifties by Luis Reece, Ashwell Prince and Luke Procter ensured that Lancashire made solid progress on a enthralling first day of their Division Two match against Hampshire at Southport.
In a game where victory would go a long way towards assuring Glen Chapple’s team of promotion the Red Rose have reached 296 for eight with Procter unbeaten on 65, his fifth successive fifty in the LV= County Championship, an achievement also made earlier in the day by the impressive young opener Reece.
However, Lancashire’s batsmen had been made to work hard for their runs by a persevering Hampshire attack which included 16-year-old off-spinner Brad Taylor, who became the youngest player ever to represent his county in the championship. Left-arm seamer James Tomlinson was the pick of the visiting attack, finishing with three for 56 off 23 overs.
Only in the last hour or so before lunch, when 109 runs were scored off 19 overs was batting made to look a remotely straightforward business as Prince and Reece milked the visiting attack in a 120-run stand which occupied just 26 overs.
Prior to that partnership, 24 runs had been scored off the opening 14 overs of the match for the loss of Paul Horton and the same number were garnered off the 17 overs after the first interval as Andrea Agathangelou and Steven Croft sought to rebuild the innings after the departures of Prince for 63 (85 balls, ten fours, one six) and Reece for 50 (93 balls, ten fours) either side of lunch.
Agathangelou and Croft’s laborious efforts ended when Croft was caught by Michael Roberts at short leg off Liam Dawson for nine and Agathangelou followed three overs later for 30 when he could only fend Matt Coles to James Vince at third slip.
Jimmy Adams’s attack maintained their grip in the rest of an afternoon session which saw only 74 runs scored off 33 overs despite the outground’s short boundaries and fast outfield.
After tea Tom Smith’s watchful 28 off 55 balls was ended when he pulled Dawson straight to Vince at midwicket but Gareth Cross supplied some late aggression when he hit James Tomlinson for four successive boundaries just after Hampshire had taken the new ball.
The wicketkeeper-batsman’s assault was ended on 26, though, when he edged Tomlinson to Sean Ervine at first slip to give the Hampshire seamer a deserved third wicket.
Indeed, apart from the hour before lunch, Adams’s bowlers stuck to their task well on a wicket which currently contains few demons. Debutant Matt Coles bowled a hostile second spell in the afternoon session and slow left-armer Dawson claimed two for 50 in 16 reasonably tight overs. Hampshire also managed the rare feat of bowling 97 overs in six hours’ cricket.
But with Procter still at the crease, Lancashire need three runs for a third bonus point and may even hope to collect a fourth on the second morning of a match in which Lancashire will probably settle for what they have got but know that they could have done even better.
“Nearly 300 was a fair effort but we would have hoped to have one or two fewer wickets down,” said Ashwell Prince. “It was a fair contest between bat and ball. You could get runs but there was enough in the pitch for the bowlers to take wickets.
“Hampshire fought back this afternoon but while we scored a few runs this morning, it wasn’t easy at all. The wicket was doing a bit and whether it does the same in the morning we shall see. We’d like to get to 350 but I think the new ball will do a bit tomorrow.
“You feel you can score runs on this wicket but you never feel that you are quite in and you always reckoned that there was something there for the bowlers. That’s good because it should be an even contest between bat and ball.”
Picture (c) Simon Pendrigh