15 wickets fall on eventful first day at Southport
It was the bowlers who prospered on the opening day of this Specsavers County Championship match at Southport with Tom Bailey taking 4-41 as Worcestershire were bowled out for 222.
In reply Lancashire had struggled to reach 96-5 at the close, to trail by 126 runs.
Wickets fell regularly throughout the day after Worcestershire had won the toss and opted to bat under grey clouds that gradually improved into sunny conditions for the remainder of the day.
Toby Lester, playing his first Championship game of the season, struck early with the wicket of Daryl Mitchell for 9 caught behind by Dane Vilas with the score on 20.
Bailey, who started the game as the leading wicket-taker in Division One, added to his tally by having Tom Fell, opening the batting for a second consecutive game for the visitors, lbw on the back foot for 31 and worse was to follow for the Pears when Alex Milton was run out for 0 following a superb throw from mid-wicket by debutant Keshav Maharaj.
From a position of 62-3 the visitors’ looked to have safely negotiated the rest of the session only for Jordan Clark to strike in the last over before lunch with the wicket of Joe Clarke for 36 after the batsman edged a delivery that seamed away to wicketkeeper Vilas.
Brett D’Oliveria and Ben Cox fought back with a partnership of 41 for the 5th wicket before Graham Onions had Cox lbw for 14. D’Oliveira went on to compile a determined half-century before succumbing to Bailey for 61 when caught at slip by Steven Croft, and the Red Rose fast bowler added to that with a beauty of a delivery to bowl Wayne Parnell for 4 and Josh Tongue caught behind for 17.
Ben Twohig edged Lester behind for 1 and Dillon Pennington did likewise off Onions to give Vilas five catches in the innings with the visitors all out for 222 early in the final session.
But Lancashire made a dreadful start to their innings with both Haseeb Hameed and Rob Jones falling to catches in the slips for 0 during the same opening over by Tongue.
Croft fell to a catch at third slip by Twohig off Parnell for 14 to leave Lancashire in trouble on 27-3.
It was Davies and Vilas who combined to rally the innings with the best partnership of the day. The pair took the attack back to the Worcestershire bowlers with a series of forceful shots to add 50 runs from just 55 balls during the latter stages of the day.
But just when it looked like Lancashire were going to end the day reasonably placed a piece of good fortune fell the visitors way.
Davies produced a lovely straight drive off Tongue only to watch aghast as the bowler flicked out a boot and deflect the ball onto the stumps and run out Vilas for 18 at the non-striker’s end.
And two balls later Davies, who had struck 9 fours, was also back in the dressing room having been lbw to Tongue for 47.
Lester, sent in as nightwatchman at the fall of Vilas’ wicket, and Clark saw out the remaining three overs to reach stumps on 96-5.
“We thought we were going to be stuck in this morning,” said Tom Bailey.
“So we were quite surprised when they decided to toss. We were going to bowl first (if we’d have won).
“To get them all out for 222 is probably par (on this wicket).
Asked for his assessment of the wicket Bailey added: “(It was the) same old Southport.
“When you are bowling at times you feel like you are nowhere near getting a wicket. And then all of a sudden a couple come along at once. I knew that, coming into this game, so you just have to keep plugging away. Hopefully things will happen.
“I think to go into day two on 90-3, we’d have taken that. It was so unfortunate for the way Dane got out. And it always seems to be the case that when something like that happens another wicket falls.
“But the lads are still going to show a big fight tomorrow and hopefully we can get a lead.”
“I think on a ground like this runs are quite free-flowing so I definitely think it can happen. We’ve just got to dig in tomorrow morning and see how we get on in the afternoon.
“I’ve no doubt it will turn in the second innings and with Kesh (Maharaj)’s experience we are backing him to put in a good performance.”
Photo: Barry Mitchell