Lancashire edge absorbing first day at Southport
Lancashire and Middlesex produced an absorbing battle on the first day of this Specsavers County Championship match at Southport & Birkdale Sports Club with the home side much the happier of the two, bowling the visitors out for 180 after losing the toss and then reaching the close on 123-4.
In fact it was a hard day of county cricket with runs at a premium on a wicket that had something in it for the bowlers throughout.
“To bowl them out for 180 was a great effort, having lost the toss,” said Saqib Mahmood.
Mahmood-playing in just his third first-class match-took three wickets today, following the three he picked up in last week’s Roses match, and the young fast bowler said: “I’m happy with that.”
“I got called up to the side due to a few injuries, so you want to make the most of it. I’m learning every time I’m playing and picking things up in every spell. So it’s all going really well at the moment.”
Assessing the day Mahmood added: “We were going to bat (if we won the toss) but as a bowler I didn’t mind bowling first.
“To come away with four wickets in the first session and then to bowl them out in the second session was a great effort from the lads.”
Mahmood didn’t think that it was a wicket where you would expect fourteen wickets to fall on the first day, saying: “I think there’s been a lot of soft dismissals. I don’t think it’s that bad a pitch, despite what the scores might suggest.”
“You have to work hard on it and you will get the rewards.”
The Red Rose side made a good start with Tom Bailey and Mahmood producing fine opening spells to reduce Middlesex to 38-3 inside the first hour.
Mahmood was nearly unplayable at times and was eventually rewarded with the wicket of Nick Gubbins when the Middlesex opener edged down the leg side to wicketkeeper Alex Davies for 1.
Davies then took a good diving catch in front of first slip after Sam Robson, on 15, fenced at a Bailey delivery that seamed away while Dawid Malan carelessly pulled Bailey straight to Shiv Chanderpaul at fine leg after making just 2.
Steve Eskinazi and Paul Stirling rallied to add 34 runs for the fourth wicket before Eskinazi edged Ryan McLaren behind to Davies having made 30.
Middlesex lunched on 102-4 with Stirling and John Simpson extending their alliance to 71 runs from nearly 15 overs in the afternoon before the visitors collapsed from 143-4 to 180 all out.
Stirling, who had earlier pulled Mahmood for six over mid-wicket, fell for 49 after advancing down the wicket to the same bowler but he only succeeding in glancing the delivery down the leg side to wicketkeeper Davies.
Franklin then chopped a Mahmood delivery onto his stumps for 1, Harris was brilliantly caught down the leg side off Jordan Clark by Davies diving to his left for 6, and the Red Rose wicketkeeper collected his sixth catch of the day when Toby Roland-Jones nicked Clark behind in the same over for 4.
Davies’ six catches fell one short of the Lancashire first-class record for dismissals in an innings held jointly by Bill Farrimond, Warren Hegg and Luke Sutton.
Tim Murtagh went next for a duck, fending a short ball from McLaren to Croft at third slip, and last man Ravi Patel holed out to Stephen Parry at deep square leg off Clark for 5, the sixth wicket to fall in 13 overs for the addition of 37 runs.
Simpson, who had watched the clatter of wickets from the other end, was the mainstay of the Middlesex innings with an impressive half century but he was left stranded on 53 not out when the innings came to a close on the stroke of tea.
It was a fine performance by the Lancashire attack with Clark taking 3-36, Mahmood 3-63, McLaren 2-26 and Bailey 2-47.
But the Lancashire innings started disastrously, as two wickets fell in the first over bowled by Murtagh.
Davies edged the second ball behind to Simpson while Liam Livingstone nicked his first to the wicketkeeper to leave Lancashire reeling on 0-2.
Haseeb Hameed and Steven Croft mounted a determined rear-guard action and the pair slowly but surely compiled the longest partnership of the day thus far in adding exactly 50 runs in 17.1 overs before Hameed became the fourth batsmen of the day to depart to a leg side ‘strangle’ off James Harris and give Simpson his third catch after making 18.
Croft had settled in well in making 31 but the Red Rose skipper then fell to an excellent diving catch by Patel at deep cover to give Murtagh a third wicket with Lancashire 74-4.
Chanderpaul (28 not out) and Dane Vilas (24 not out) dug in with a determined partnership that spanned the remaining 16 overs to steer Lancashire to the close on 123-4, just 57 runs behind.
Mahmood is hopeful Lancashire can build a substantial lead from this position, saying: “I think if we can come back tomorrow and have a good start, we can get a good foundation to our innings.
“After being 0-2, I think the lads have done a great job rebuilding with the partnerships between Has and Crofty and then Shiv and Dane towards the end of the day.
“Hopefully we can kick on in the morning.”
Photo: Craig Galloway