Lancashire enjoyed success with the bat during the first two sessions of day three against Middlesex at Lord's today before they were frustrated after tea with ball in hand as home skipper and opener Chris Rogers flourished.
The Australian left-hander, who had his return to Lord’s for 2013 confirmed earlier this week, added an unbeaten 57 to the hundred he scored in the reverse fixture at Liverpool to help the hosts close day three on 129-2 from 37 overs.
After Lancashire had replied to 446 with 448 in their first innings, Middlesex gained a lead of 127 ahead of tomorrow’s final day. Rogers and Dawid Malan (37 not out) shared 85 for the third wicket inside 20 overs.
With Lancashire having to match Surrey’s result at the Oval to take their fight against relegation into next week’s final round of matches, they may have to set about chasing whatever target they are set tomorrow afternoon if Surrey continue on the path to victory against Nottinghamshire.
“We’ll be confident of chasing anything,” said wicketkeeper Gareth Cross, who impressed with the bat either side of lunch.
“Everyone’s batting well at the minute. It’s coming to the end of the season when we need to be scoring some runs, and we seem to be doing that. We did it last week and now this. Hopefully that continues.
“First of all it’s up to us to try and bowl them out. If not, hopefully they’ll give us something to chase. If they do pull out and give us a mammoth score, we have to go for it.”
Half-centuries for Karl Brown, who top-scored with 78 off 175 balls, and Cross were crucial in gaining a slender first innings advantage on the stroke of tea after South African Ashwell Prince had brought up his 10th of the season on day two and pushed on to 71 this morning.
Prince and Brown, who shared 41 for the fourth wicket, safely navigated the first hour’s play, a time which had been tricky for batting during day one and two. Despite a quiet morning session today, hopefully things spice up tomorrow morning again.
But the former fell when he edged Toby Roland-Jones to first slip to leave the score at 266-4 in the 93rd over before the same bowler accounted for Steven Croft four overs later, the batsman bowled by one that kept low.
That left Lancashire in choppy waters for the first time in the innings, although thankfully not for long as Cross came out full of intent to reach lunch on 41 off only 22 balls, reigniting his side’s hopes of claiming a fourth batting bonus point, later secured in the nick of time with only two balls of the 110th over remaining.
With nine needed off the 110th, the final over in which bonus points can be accrued, the wicketkeeper crashed the first ball for six over mid-wicket before falling to the second, caught behind off Gareth Berg.
Cross had earlier reached his second fifty in two matches off 33 balls, including eight fours, eventually falling for 59 off 35.
After Kyle Hogg slapped the left-arm spin of Ravi Patel, who finished with 4-126 from 35 overs, to mid-on, Glen Chapple came in and hit a useful 29 which included a six off Neil Dexter’s medium pace over long-off to help take the score beyond 400 in a stand of 51 with Brown for the eighth wicket.
Patel took three of the last four wickets to fall, including Chapple stumped and Ajmal Shahzad lbw. Brown was then bowled by Berg for his top score of the Championship campaign so far to wrap up the innings.
In all, there were five Lancashire batsmen who posted fifties in the innings. Tom Smith and Paul Horton were the others.
Chapple then ensured the Red Rose made the ideal start with the ball after tea by trapping Sam Robson lbw to leave the hosts at 5-1 in the third over. And when Joe Denly was bowled by Shahzad in the 18th, Middlesex were 44-2, a lead of 42.
It was just a shame that they could not break the Rogers-Malan alliance before stumps: “I thought we bowled quite well today,” added Cross. “We just got a bit unlucky with a few plays and misses here and there.”
Meanwhile, skipper Chapple was presented with a leather bound copy of the Wisden Almanack by Middlesex director of cricket Angus Fraser before play this morning in recognition of being one of Wisden’s Five Cricketers of the Year for 2012.
Reports: Day 1 I Day 2
Article (c) Lancashire CCC Ltd
Photo (c) Steven Pond/EMPICS Sport