Lancashire's home games at outgrounds this season have been blessed by such good weather that it was almost a surprise that 38 overs of the first day of the vital County Championship match against Warwickshire were lost to rain and bad light.
However, what may have depressed home supporters rather more than the gloomy conditions and frequent showers on Merseyside was that Glen Chapple's batsmen lost their last eight wickets for 88 runs and were bowled out for 189 by a Warwickshire attack for whom left-arm seamer Neil Carter claimed a career-best 6-30 in just 8.5 overs.
Benefiting from the frequent breaks for rain which meant that some of Lancashire's batsmen had to start their innings more than once, Carter swung the ball prodigiously from the River End at Aigburth and was assisted by fellow-seamer Chris Woakes, who took 3-54 in 16 well controlled overs. By the close, Warwickshire had reached 30-1 off 11 overs, Varun Chopra having edged Glen Chapple to Moore at third slip.
Lancashire's major bulwark against the Bears attack was opener Stephen Moore, whose 94-ball 76 contained 14 fluent boundaries. Driving Boyd Rankin through the off side twice in the second over, Moore put on 45 with Paul Horton before the adopted Liverpudlian was caught by second slip Rikki Clarke off Woakes when he had made 14.
Horton's dismissal, just after the first rain break, set the tone for a day in which the batsmen found it difficult to find any rhythm. In the second over after lunch Karl Brown departed for 14 in virtually identical fashion to Horton when he pushed forward to Woakes, and the England one-day player completed his three-wicket haul when he had Mark Chilton caught behind for six, ten balls after yet another rain-break.
Steven Croft lasted just six deliveries before he was lbw to Keith Barker for seven and Moore, who had made the most of being dropped on 43 by second slip Clarke, became the first of Carter's victims when he leg-glanced the left-armer's first ball in the 2011 Championship to wicketkeeper Tim Ambrose.
In difficult conditions, the opener's confident batting had been impressive indeed and his departure to a "strangle" was clearly a pivotal moment in the day's play. With both Moore and Tom Smith batting well, Lancashire could have hoped to reach at least 250; once the ex-Worcestershire batsman had been dismissed, Warwickshire, and Carter in particular, held the whip hand.
"It's never easy when you're coming on and off every five or six overs," said Moore. "The new ball didn't really swing but all credit to Chris Woakes who bowled good areas and got the ball to swing often.
"Paul Horton and I got some momentum in the first session and it's anyone's guess how that session would have gone if it hadn't rained, but the fact of the matter is that it did and we didn't have a great day with the bat."
But while Lancashire didn't make the type of total they would have been looking for when, for the seventh time in succession, they had lost the toss and been asked to bat, Carter enjoyed a day which he may remember in his dotage.
The left-arm seamer has spent most of the summer recovering from a pelvic injury and searching for form, but having taken Moore's wicket with his first delivery, he immediately followed this up with a brilliant one-handed caught and bowled to remove Gareth Cross for a third-ball duck.
The 35-year-old all-rounder also dismissed Glen Chapple, caught in the gully by Will Porterfield for nine, and Sajid Mahmood, lbw, with successive balls as Lancashire slumped to 155 for eight.
Tom Smith and Kyle Hogg offered brief resistance with a 31-run partnership for the ninth wicket in seven overs, but Carter responded to their attacking strokeplay by claiming both left handers' wickets in successive overs to finish with the best figures of his 12-year career. Hogg made 15 before being caught at third slip and Smith was last man out for an enterprising 31 when he skied Carter to Troughton at mid-off.
"Our bowling attack has been superb all season, we'll get that ball to swing tomorrow and you can guarantee that we will make it tough for Warwickshire," said Moore, as he looked forward to another key couple of sessions in Lancashire's quest for the title.
"We're confident we can get ourselves back in this game and push for victory on the third and fourth days."
Photos (c) Simon Pendrigh
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