Honours even after late Bailey burst
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.”
Photo: A great diving catch by Alex Davies for Tom Bailey’s first wicket today (Simon Pendrigh)
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