Lancashire had in-form batsman Mark Chilton to thank for holding their innings together on the first day of the Roses clash against Yorkshire at Headingley.
Stand-in captain Luke Sutton won the toss and elected to bat – the first time they have done so in seven matches – but would have been dismayed to see his side slip into trouble at 2-2 in the third over.
VVS Laxman’s 50 helped to begin the comeback before Chilton became the club’s leading Championship run scorer for the summer with a dogged 73 not out off 181 balls on a slow pitch.
The Red Rose closed the day on 226-7, having also recovered from 159-6 thanks to a useful seventh wicket stand of 54 between Chilton and Kyle Hogg.
New ball bowler Tim Bresnan was Yorkshire’s best bowler on display, taking advantage of some early swing, with 2-36 from 22 overs. But he only marginally overshadowed leg-spinner Adil Rashid’s 3-76 from 26.
“If you win the toss and bat, you would prefer to be better than 226-7 but the wicket has been exceptionally slow, which has made run-scoring pretty difficult,” said Sutton. “I think runs will be at a premium throughout the game.
“I certainly don’t think anyone will find it easy to score runs quickly.
“From where we were, we have come out of the day positively. If we can get up to a first innings score of 300, that will be a pretty decent score. We need a decent morning to be able to do that.”
Lancashire, who fielded all-rounder Steven Croft in place of left-arm spinner Stephen Parry, had to deal with the early losses of makeshift opener Croft and regular opener Paul Horton for nought and two respectively.
Croft, who has only faced the new ball once before in first-class cricket for Auckland in the most recent winter, only lasted five balls because he was superbly caught behind by the diving Gerard Brophy off the bowling of Bresnan in the second over. And Horton went in the next, caught in the gully by Jonny Bairstow off the bowling of Matthew Hoggard.
Mal Loye (24) and Laxman then began the recovery with a third wicket partnership of 63 in 27 overs before the former paddled an Adil Rashid long-hop to Bresnan at short fine-leg three overs before lunch.
It was the first of two soft dismissals either side of lunch – Lancashire went into the break at 66-3 after 32 overs – because Indian star Laxman presented Rashid, the England one-day man, with his second wicket when he miscued to Hoggard at mid-on 13 overs into the afternoon.
Laxman had only just recorded his fourth score of 50 or above in four consecutive LV Division One matches, reaching his latest milestone off 118 balls with eight fours included.
Francois du Plessis looked good in the midst of a fifth wicket stand of 54 in 16 overs with Chilton, sweeping left-arm spinner David Wainwright for six in the process, but Wainwright got his revenge when he trapped the South African lbw for 32 off 58 balls in the 61st over.
Sutton was next to go, caught behind by Brophy off the bowling of Bresnan for just four. It left the visitors at 159-6 in the 72nd.
Hogg whacked six fours in his 86-ball innings of 29 before he pulled Rashid to sub-fielder Azeem Rafiq, who took a good tumbling catch at mid-wicket. The left-hander had already been dropped on 19 by Brophy off Hoggard.
Chilton, who will be accompanied to the crease by Tom Lungley in the morning, hit eight boundaries in his knock. He reached his 50 off 138 balls, and needs just 27 more for his first four-day century of the summer.
“It’s been a top knock,” added Sutton. We needed someone with an experienced head to anchor the innings. He played really, really well. It would be great to go on and get a hundred. If he does, we will get close to that 300.”
Graham Hardcastle reporting from Headingley Carnegie
Photo: Simon Pendrigh