Lancashire v Nottinghamshire, Specsavers County Championship
Friday 13 - Monday 16 April 2018
Friday the 13th proved to be an unlucky day after all with rain overnight and this morning leading to the abandonment-without a ball bowled-of the first day of our Specsavers County Championship match at Emirates Old Trafford against Nottinghamshire.
The umpires made a number of inspections once the rain had ceased mid-morning but found that the outfield was too wet to allow a start, with little or no wind not helping to the pitch to dry out.
Play was finally abandoned at 2.30pm, and this is the first time that Lancashire’s opening day of the championship season has been called off without a ball bowled since 2000 when the first day against Kent at Canterbury fell foul to the weather. The last time this happened at Old Trafford was, ironically, also on April 13th when there was no play on first day of our game against Sussex in 1999.
The teams will try again tomorrow with an extra 30 minutes added to the day and a minimum of 104 overs to be bowled from 11am.
A fascinating day of Specsavers County Championship action unfolded across the 104 overs bowled and honours are just about even with Lancashire 31 runs ahead of Nottinghamshire who closed on 127-6 just after 7.30pm tonight. Dane Vilas top scored for Lancashire with 49 while Tom Bailey, chosen to lead the Red Rose attack, claimed three wickets in a devastating six-over spell late in the day to peg the visitors back.
It came as little surprise that after losing the first day to rain and a wet outfield, Nottinghamshire opted not to toss and put Lancashire in to bat. Although the first runs arrived courtesy of four leg byes off the third ball of the day, it took 27 minutes and 39 balls before either Keaton Jennings, making his Red Rose championship debut, or Haseeb Hameed scored a run off the bat, the latter finally driving Jake Ball for three runs through the covers. That proved to be Hameed’s only scoring stroke before the opener fell lbw to Ball in the 11th over of the day when the score was on 21.
Ball and Luke Fletcher, playing his first four-day game since last June following a serious head injury, had bowled tidy opening spells to restrict the scoring, but Steven Mullaney’s decision to make a change produced an immediate result when Jennings got a leading edge to Harry Gurney’s third delivery to pop up a return catch to the bowler after making 11 with the score 28-2.
Alex Davies, playing his 50th first-class game for Lancashire, was quickly off the mark with a nicely driven boundary through mid-on off Fletcher and then drove his replacement Luke Wood’s first two deliveries to the third man boundary. In fact Davies took advantage of some erratic bowling from Wood, who conceded 15 runs in his first two overs, to accelerate the score past the fifty mark. The left-arm bowler hit back quickly with the wickets of new captain Liam Livingstone for 9, playing no shot to a delivery that swung back to take out off stump, and Davies lbw for 23 to leave Lancashire on 60-4 fifteen minutes before lunch which they reached on 77-4.
Dane Vilas struck two boundaries in Ball’s first over of the afternoon, an emphatic front foot drive followed by a lofted pick up over backward square leg as Lancashire enjoyed their best partnership of the day. Vilas found solid support from Shivnarine Chanderpaul, the pair adding 50 runs in 50 minutes before the West Indian left hander, having taken 52 balls to compile a typically patient innings of 11, miscued a short ball from Fletcher to be caught by Jake Libby at square leg to end a 64-run partnership.
That wicket was the first of six to fall for the addition of just 34 runs as Nottinghamshire made the most of their breakthrough.
Vilas was bowled by Gurney for 49 before Ball took charge with four wickets to finish with the outstanding figures of 5-43. Steven Croft was caught by Riki Wessels running back from first slip after edging onto his pads, Bailey edged the next ball behind to Tom Moores while Jordan Clark was caught on the square leg boundary for 19 before Graham Onions was last out, caught by Wood for 0 on the stroke of tea.
That left the visitors facing a long final session of 43 overs, and Lancashire enjoyed early success when Libby was caught behind by Davies for 15 after glancing Onions, also making his Championship debut, down the leg side.
Mullaney and Nash patiently added 42 runs in 17 overs before an inspired 6 over spell of 3-7 from Bailey brought Lancashire right back in to the game. First Mullaney departed for 24 after edging behind where Davies took a great catch diving low to his right. Then Bailey trapped both Chris Nash and Notts’ overseas player Ross Taylor lbw for 24 and 9 respectively to leave the visitors on 82-4, still 76 behind.
Joe Mennie, on his Lancashire debut, had come close to opening his account on a number of occasions and he finally struck with two wickets in one over with the important wicket of Samit Patel for 28, after the batsman played back and edged the ball onto his stumps, followed by nightwatchman Fletcher who edged down the leg side to Davies for 2.
That left Notts on 112-6 but Wessels (18*) and Moores (0*) saw out the remaining three overs to stumps with the visitors on 127-6, still 31 runs behind.
“I think we would have liked a few more runs and I thought it was a tricky morning for the batters to try and score,” said Bailey. “I thought Notts bowled pretty well to be honest, but I think honours are even going into tomorrow.
“To get six wickets in that evening session means we can come back tomorrow thinking if we can get a few poles we are right back in it.”
Bailey was thrilled to have handed the new ball at the start of the day.
“It’s a massive honour to me to be given the first over,” he admitted. “There’s a bit a battle between me and Bunny (Onions), but I just sneaked it!”
And Bailey feels his game is in good order going into the 2018 season.
“I’ve felt good all winter and finished the back end of last season pretty well,” he said. “And I’ve manage to take it into the start of this season. I’ve had a few injuries in the last couple of seasons, but when I’ve played I feel I’ve played well. So if I can play in most of the games (this year) I’m pretty sure I’ll have a good season.”
For now the tall fast bowler’s thoughts are focussed on tomorrow’s third day.
“April pitches means there’s every chance of getting a result in three days,” he said. “So we’ll come back tomorrow and try and get these four wickets and aim to score a few more than in the first innings hopefully.
“It’s tough to score runs given the slow nature of this pitch. I think in the second innings we are going to have to graft an innings out of it now we know what the pitch is like.”
A weather-shortened day at Emirates Old Trafford, where only 54 overs of play were possible, ended at tea with Lancashire on 58-2 in their second innings, trailing Nottinghamshire by 6 runs.
Riki Wessels and Tom Moores combined in a gutsy partnership to frustrate Lancashire during the morning. The Nottinghamshire pair resumed on 127-6 and batted for the first 80 minutes of the session to add 67 vital runs to the total and take the visitors some way past Lancashire’s first innings score of 158.
Moores played a variety of attractive attacking shots, a cover drive for four bringing up the 50 partnership from 99 balls, before he launched a Keaton Jennings delivery for the only six of the match to date as Notts looked set to gain a significant advantage.
The introduction of spin provided the breakthrough for Lancashire with Liam Livingstone trapping Wessels lbw for 44 to end a partnership worth 82 priceless runs for the Trent Bridge outfit.
Rain then brought an early lunch with Notts on 204-7 and Lancashire quickly wrapped up the innings at the start of the afternoon. Luke Wood departed to a great catch at slip by Dane Vilas to give Livingstone a second wicket, Moores was bowled by Joe Mennie (3-46) for 38 and Jake Ball was stumped by Alex Davies for 9 with Livingstone picking up his third wicket to finish with 3-27.
That clatter of wickets ended the visitors’ first innings at 222 and holding a useful lead of 64 despite having lost their final four wickets for 28 runs. It was a good fightback by the Lancashire attack considering a much larger deficit appeared to be on the cards as the morning progressed.
Jennings was quickly off the mark with pull for four in Lancashire’s second innings, and he forged a steady partnership with Haseeb Hameed as the pair steadily eroded Nottinghamshire’s lead. Umpire Neil Mallender had to move swiftly to evade a fierce drive by Jennings off Samit Patel at one point but just as Lancashire’s openers had nearly reached parity, Harry Gurney struck with two wickets in consecutive overs to boost the visitors’ hopes.
Hameed edged behind to wicketkeeper Moores for 19 and the Moores-Gurney combination were soon celebrating further success, albeit Alex Davies could count himself somewhat unfortunate in getting a nick from an attempted pull to a wayward leg side delivery.
That left Lancashire on 51-2 and Livingstone had time to strike a lovely cover drive for four just before tea to steer Lancashire to 58-2 at the break to which Jennings had contributed 27 not out.
Rain and bad light prevented any further action from taking place, but even so it still leaves a game that is still very much alive going in to the final day.
“A good session for either side could still put them in a match winning position,” said our overseas signing Joe Mennie. “The rain has come in this afternoon and spoiled that a bit. But tomorrow is a massive day for both teams.”
The Australian fast bowler was pleased with how his Red Rose debut had gone so far.
“It was nice to get a few wickets and I thought I bowled pretty well and that the lads bowled pretty well too. It would have been nice to wrap things up a bit quicker this morning, but I thought they batted pretty well.
He did admit to a few nerves when play finally started yesterday.
“You’re always nervous when you come to a new club,” he said. “You come up against teams you don’t know much about. You can do all the research and talk to the other players but when you get out there it’s a different scenario.
“But I’ve settled in here very well and I’m pretty happy.
“I was happy to get my first spell out of the way and also bowl well. That was a massive confidence boost.
“As a unit I thought we did pretty well. Getting those wickets to helped to drag us back in (to the match). We seem to complement each other pretty well. Me and Bails kept the runs dry, as did Graham. I thought we gelled pretty well.
Nottinghamshire inflicted Lancashire’s first Championship defeat at Emirates Old Trafford in 11 matches after a bizarre morning which saw 12 wickets fall in 15 overs over 90 minutes to find the teams shaking hands as early as 12.30pm.
Lancashire resumed their second innings on 58-2, just 6 runs behind but the collapse that followed was astonishing as Nottinghamshire pair Harry Gurney and Jake Ball ran through the remaining batting, taking a combined 8-15 in 62 balls as the ball nipped around, to skittle the Red Rose for 73 and leave a victory target of just 10 runs.
Amazingly Notts lost four wickets in scoring the required runs with Joe Mennie taking 3-4, to end up with six wickets in the match, before the visitors could finally claim a six-wicket victory.
The clatter of wickets started with the third ball of the morning when Keaton Jennings was lbw to Gurney for 27. That was followed by Ross Taylor taking a brilliant diving catch at slip to dismiss Shivnarine Chanderpaul for a duck to give Gurney a second wicket before there was a short stoppage for rain with Lancashire on 62-4.
Liam Livingstone drove Jake Ball for four though cover to take Lancashire ahead by 2 runs when play resumed but then edged his next delivery to wicketkeeper Moores after making 12.
Ball next produced the delivery of the day to knock back Steven Croft's off stump with the ball pitching on middle and leg before seaming past the batsman’s defensive push. And there was another outstanding piece of fielding to admire when Chris Nash took a diving catch to his right at gully off Ball, Jordan Clark the third man to be out with the score on 66.
The final three wickets of the innings followed swiftly; Tom Bailey caught behind off Gurney, Dane Vilas edging Ball to Wessels at slip and Mennie giving Tom Moores his fifth catch of the innings and Gurney his sixth wicket as Lancashire were all out for 73, their lowest score since being 63 all out against Worcestershire at Emirates Old Trafford in 2012.
Needing to score ten runs to win, Notts lost Steven Mullaney for 1 after the skipper pulled Mennie 's first ball to Graham Onions at fine leg, Haseeb Hameed took a great diving catch running back from slip to take a 'steepler' to dismiss Chris Nash off the bowling of Mennie before Jake Libby edged the bowler’s next delivery to Livingstone at second slip.
With the scores level Ross Taylor edged Onions to Livingstone before Riki Wessels ended proceedings with a single.
Lancashire take 3 points from the match and Notts 20.
A disappointed Liam Livingstone reflected on how the game unfolded this morning.
“It has been a funny game,” he admitted. “At times the pitch has looked unplayable and at times it has looked pretty good.
“As a team, when you lose two wickets you have to graft and do what you can to make sure you don't lose three, four or five wickets. We didn't do that this morning.
“The score is 25 runs v 12 wickets this morning on a pitch that has quickened and the ball has nipped around, which has made it difficult. We have bowled a really good line and length this morning and it showed we have the fight we need, because we didn't roll over in their second innings. I wanted to see that fight.
“We have just been out-played in the time we have played. The Notts bowlers have bowled really well and credit to them.
“It would have been a horrible run chase if they had needed 70 or so and it would have made it a difficult run chase for them.
“The talk in the dressing room when we lost quick wickets, was to just get 70 or 80 ahead, because then you never know what will happen.
“They have bowled a bit better than us. Joe (Mennie) and Graham (Onions) have bowled well and Tom (Bailey) in the first, but if we had bowled a bit fuller with the new ball in the first innings – because they played and missed at a lot of balls – and they nick one of those, who knows?
“But it is only one game, we will dust ourselves down and go again next week.
“We can take some confidence from having them at 10-4 going to Chelmsford on Friday.”