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Vilas century puts Lancs on top against Sussex

Vilas century puts Lancs on top against Sussex

A seventh Red Rose century by Dane Vilas steered Lancashire into a strong position against Sussex on the second day of this LV= Insurance County Championship match at Emirates Old Trafford.

Vilas shared in three big partnerships with Alex Davies, Rob Jones and Luke Wood as Lancashire closed on 339-5, ahead by 38 runs with the Red Rose skipper still there unbeaten on 158.

It was a commanding innings by Vilas who came to the crease with his side in a spot of trouble on 41-3 after the Sussex attack had similar early success to that enjoyed by their Red Rose counterparts on day one.

Ollie Robinson struck twice in a good opening eight-over spell to remove Keaton Jennings, caught at fourth slip for 4, and Josh Bohannon who nicked an edge to wicketkeeper Brown for 10. Steven Croft next gloved a pull to a short delivery from George Garton that was caught by Brown.

Davies and Vilas responded in positive fashion either side of lunch with an array of attacking shots, Vilas contributing 36 of the 50 partnership reached off 86 balls.

Davies had a moment of good fortune when a fierce drive burst through the hands of spinner Carson in his first over but the wicketkeeper/batsman continued the good form he had shown in pre-season with another impressive outing, three flashing drives from one Stuart Meaker over particularly catching the eye, with the batsman’s fifty arriving from the first of those shots, an emphatic back foot square cut.

But Davies’ innings ended on 61 when teenager Sean Hunt, in the middle of a fine spell, nipped one back to trap the opener lbw and claim his maiden first-class wicket. That ended a 91-run partnership with Vilas, who moments later was dropped on 47 at slip off Carson but the Red Rose skipper soon reached his half century and powered on in a partnership of 125 with Rob Jones.

Jones took three consecutive boundaries off young spinner Carson on his way to 58 and looked in good touch until he reverse-pulled a full toss from the same bowler straight to Tom Clark at backward point. It was a horrible way to get out and Jones was distraught on his way off.

By then Vilas had reached three figures (from 136 balls) with an innings of real quality that saw the South African-in his 50th match for the county-post the milestone of 3,000 first-class runs for Lancashire at average of 47.61 when he reached 76. Of the batsmen to have reached this milestone, only Stuart Law, John Crawley and Ashwell Prince have a better average.

Vilas wasn’t finished though as he moved swiftly from 100 to 150 in just 53 balls, punished anything wayward from a tiring Sussex attack.

Luke Wood provided great support with an unbeaten 27 in a partnership of 80 that the hosts will hope can add considerably to the lead already established.

Resuming the day on 291-9 the Sussex first innings lasted 28 deliveries during which Stuart Meaker and Sean Hunt scrambled the total up to 301 to claim a third batting point, before Bailey cleverly trapped Hunt lbw for 7 with a slower delivery to finish with figures of 4-48. Meaker was left unbeaten on 30.

It was a good day for both Dane Vilas and for the team.

“It was all we could have wanted,” said the captain.

“It was a disappointing end to the day yesterday but we’ve done the job today.

“The plan was to get their last wicket early and then bat all day, and we managed that which was fantastic.

Asked about his favourite shot of his innings, Vilas didn’t hesitate.

“That punched drive for the two to get to one hundred,” he smiled. “I was looking for it and they were bowling pretty well so when I saw the ball go past the cover fielder it felt really good.

The Lancashire skipper looked in great touch today, and he added: “I felt good in the practice games and I felt good from the start.

“Getting out in the middle in a really competitive game and getting us in a good position was the aim. We’ve got some hard work ahead of us now in the morning.

Vilas looked in complete control throughout his innings and he said: “That’s what we all want when we are playing.

“We know how difficult it is to start (an innings), especially against a good bowling attack like this, it’s tough. So when you are out there and you start hitting the ball in the middle and you are finding your feet, you become more relaxed.

“There’s no better feeling. Luckily I was in one of those sort of zones today.

Vilas prides himself in being able to ‘reset’ once he reaches a century and today was no different.

“There are so many times when are struggling for form and finding it difficult. When you have a hundred, there’s no better time to bat. You’re in, seeing the ball well and you need to cash as much as you can.

“It’s only day two in this match so there’s a lot of batting ahead so there’s lots of time in the game. So get as many (runs) as you can and go as big as possible.

Vilas was involved in two important partnerships during the innings and he said: “They were one of the key features of our play today.

“Al (Davies) was batting beautifully, and he set it up during tough conditions with the new ball.

“The way Jonesy came in and played was incredible. It took all the pressure off me. He really put his foot down and it was great to see. He’d done all the hard work, played beautifully and then to get out to a full toss like that, I was gutted for him.

“I know how hard he has worked and I was so disappointed for him. He deserved so much more. But I also think he will take a lot of confidence from it.

"We've got a 38-run lead, we know it's a tough wicket and once the ball gets softer it gets a little bit more difficult for the bowlers to take wickets.

"So we know we need to put on big runs, and create some big pressure in the second innings.

Vilas doesn’t worry too much about his personal stats, but asked about reaching his 3,000 run milestone for Lancashire today he replied: “I’m immensely proud of what I’ve achieved here. Being the captain is fantastic and I’m very fortunate. To be among some of those names you've mentioned is great. They are legends for Lancashire.

"I’m very happy with that, and hopefully there are a few more runs to come as well.

Ken Grime

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