Livingstone leads from the front as Lancashire fight back
The opening day of the home season proved to be an eventful one as Lancashire, dismissed for 109 despite an excellent half century by stand-in skipper Liam Livingstone, hit back well to have Somerset on 153-8, just 44 runs ahead in this Specsavers County Championship encounter.
With captain Steven Croft remaining side-lined by an injury to his thumb, Livingstone continued to lead the side for this game against Somerset who arrived at Emirates Old Trafford having lost their only game of the season against Essex last week.
James Anderson returned to the side and Rob Jones made his first start of the season in the two team changes from last week’s draw against Surrey, with Shiv Chanderpaul missing due to a hamstring injury and Simon Kerrigan left out as Lancashire opted to play a fourth seamer.
That the Lancashire batsmen struggled after Tom Abell exercised the visitors right to bowl first was due to some excellent seam bowling from the Somerset attack who found plenty of movement off the pitch in overcast conditions.
Josh Davey struck first, moving the eleventh ball of the morning away from Haseeb Hameed’s forward defensive push with the resultant nick caught by wicketkeeper Steven Davies before a run had been scored. Alex Davies followed one run and two overs later when edging Davey to the safe hands of Marcus Trescothick at second slip.
Luke Procter and Liam Livingstone responded positively with five boundaries in their partnership of 34 before the loss of four wickets for seven runs in 33 balls put Somerset firmly in charge.
A superb, accurate spell of 3-18 in 7 overs by Craig Overton did the damage with Procter edged behind having made 24, followed by Jones lbw for 0 and Dane Vilas, also lbw, for 4. When Ryan McLaren departed shortly afterwards for 2, edging Tim Groenewald to Dean Elgar at first slip, Lancashire were deep in trouble on 42-6 just after one hour into the day’s play.
Livingstone and Jordan Clark battled with great determination to reach lunch on 64-6 with the Red Rose captain hitting six boundaries but playing with extreme caution as the ball continued to jag about.
Increasing cloud cover saw the floodlights in use for the first time when play resumed, and Somerset were soon enjoying further success when Clark mistimed a drive off Overton to give Abell a straightforward catch at cover to leave Lancashire on 75-7.
Stephen Parry lobbed a catch back to the bowler to record the fourth duck of the innings and give Overton another wicket while Kyle Jarvis edged Groenewald to Trescothick at slip for 1 to leave Lancashire on 84-9.
By then Livingstone had gone on the attack, twice hitting Davey to the mid-wicket boundary before launching an Overton delivery high onto the Pavilion balcony to reach his half century in spectacular style from 88 balls.
Livingstone then ramped Groenewald for four and hit Overton twice to the fence before perishing to a catch by Jack Leach on the square leg boundary to be the last man out for a valiant 68 out of a total of 109. Credit however must go to the Somerset bowlers who exploited the conditions perfectly with Overton taking 5-47, Groenewald 3-8 and Davey 2-33.
Trescothick and Elgar survived some close calls against the bowling of Anderson and Jarvis before settling in to post 42 for the opening partnership of the Somerset reply. The introduction of McLaren into the attack in the run up to tea brought the breakthrough as the Red Rose overseas player struck twice, Trescothick edging behind to Davies for 20 and Abell palpably lbw for 1 to a delivery that nipped back.
The final over of the session was eventful with James Hildreth striking Procter for three fours followed by four leg byes before the batsman played on from the final delivery for 12 to leave Somerset on 63-3 at the break.
That became 67-4 four overs into the evening session when Steven Davies, having made 1, edged an Anderson delivery to namesake Alex. It was just reward for the England pace bowler who regularly beat the bat without reward for most of the afternoon.
Elgar moved on steadily to compile his half century from 111 balls, well supported by Peter Trego in a partnership of 52 runs that steered the visitors past Lancashire’s first innings score.
The persevering McLaren hit back to claim a third wicket when he had Trego lbw for 19 to make the score 119-5, and then Procter struck twice in two balls to dismiss Lewis Gregory lbw for 9 and Davey caught at second slip by McLaren as this eventful day took another twist with Somerset 134-7, ahead by only 25 runs.
In fact it was hard to keep McLaren out of the action as the tall right arm all-rounder next beat Overton’s forward defence to claim another lbw and a fourth wicket to reduce the visitors to 145-8.
Opening batsman Elgar was still there at the close, 66 not out with Leach 1 not out, as Somerset finished the day on 153-8, leading by 44 runs with an intriguing second day in prospect.
“It was a very interesting day’s cricket,” admitted Liam Livingstone. “There was a bit in the pitch this morning, and I thought Somerset bowled really well.
“For us it was a case of trying to get as many as we can, and try and get bowling on the pitch as quickly as we could. It was a situation where you either try and graft it out and let the pitch dry out a bit or go the other way.
“It wasn’t easy (to bat on) this morning and I think we could have played a little bit better, but I think we’ve dragged it back well in the last session. The lads have bowled really well.
Lancashire fought back well from a poor start at Surrey last week, and will need to show similar resilience again, something Livingstone acknowledged, adding: “It’s something we would rather be fighting from ball one rather than when we are 42 for six. But (to be where we are) from this morning we would have took it.
“We need to try get off to stronger starts and get ourselves in positions to dominate games but to fair to Somerset I thought they bowled really well with the new ball and put us under a lot of pressure, so it’s been a tough day for us.
Livingstone admitted he was in something of a dilemma as his innings progressed earlier in the day.
“I didn’t want to take up too much time just hanging around and then getting a good ball that got me out. When Jimmy (Anderson) came in, I said to him there’s a ball coming that’s going to get one of us so it’s time to try and get as many as we can as quickly as we can. Maybe I could have started attacking earlier and got us up to 150 but if I’d got out we might have been all out for 70. Sometimes it goes the right way, sometimes it doesn’t.
“It was nice to get some runs in a difficult situation but it would be nicer if we could have got a bigger score.
Lancashire’s captain in this match had a lot of praise for the way his bowlers hit back today, saying: “I thought Macca bowled really well today. And Proccy you always feel there’s a chance he will get a wicket. You know something will happen when you bring him on.
"Jimmy and Jarv have been so unlucky in this innings. Hopefully their batters have used up all their luck in the first innings against them! We bowled really well as a unit in that last session.
Looking ahead to tomorrow, Livingstone added: “I don’t know if the wicket is going to dry out. There were a few indents made by the ball today and I don’t know if it’s going to get better or worse.
“We’ve got to try and keep it tight in the morning, take the two wickets and then try and graft our way and put a price on every wicket. Bat as big as we can and as long as we can and give ourselves something we can attack with in the fourth innings.”
Photo: Simon Pendrigh