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Late wickets boost for Lancs against Essex

Late wickets boost for Lancs against Essex

An unbeaten century from Dan Lawrence and a good fightback by Lancashire have left this LV= County Championship clash evenly poised after the first day’s play at Emirates Old Trafford which closed with Essex 280-7.

Lancashire enjoyed an early success after Essex had won the toss and opted to bat when Sir Alastair Cook nicked a good delivery from Tom Bailey to wicketkeeper Phil Salt for 2.

And the Red Rose attack, with Hassan Ali returning for his final game in place of George Balderson, could consider themselves unfortunate not to add to that tally with the quartet of Bailey, Hassan, James Anderson and Luke Wood beating the bat on several occasions without further success during the first session.

Once settled Browne and Tom Westley played steadily to reach lunch without further damage on 74-1 and had added 28 to that total before Westley tried to sweep a Matt Parkinson delivery that was perhaps just too far wide of off stump for the shot. The resultant top edge went straight up in the air and was easily caught by Salt next to the stumps.

Browne, who showed excellent judgement in leaving the ball throughout his innings, had earlier reached his half century off 101 balls and looked to be well on his way towards a century until he fell to a stunning catch having made a steady 71.

The left-hand opener fiercely drove an Anderson delivery off the back foot that smashed into Dane Vilas at silly point and somehow the Lancashire captain clung onto the ball.

It was an incredible catch and Browne stood for several seconds in disbelief and disappointment while Vilas was mobbed by his jubilant team-mates with Essex 136-3 just over halfway through the day.

But any Red Rose joy was soon dissipated by another good partnership of 97 across 30 overs between Lawrence and Paul Walter either side of tea.

Lawrence, returning from injury for his first innings in a month, eased his way to 100 not out off 178 balls, reaching three figures in the penultimate over of the day, and he found great support from Walter in the afternoon sunshine.

The Lancashire bowlers mostly bowled some good lines on a wicket that offered little either off the pitch or through the air and forced them into trying to restrict the scoring rate.  

Their woe at this point was encapsulated by a beauty of a delivery from Wood just before tea that that brought Walter forward onto the front foot before narrowly beating the outside edge. It was that sort of day.

But the bowlers stuck to their task with Bailey finally finding reward with the second new ball, bowling Walter with a pitched-up delivery for 34 and four balls later finding extra bounce and movement to have Matt Critchley caught behind for a duck.

That left the visitors on 233-5 and it could have easily been six moments later as both Lawrence, on 77, and Adam Rossington were missed in the slip cordon, Lawrence dissecting first and second slip and Rossington put down twice, all off an extremely unfortunate Anderson.  

But there was late drama as further wickets fell in the 94th and 95th overs of the day.

First Lawrence, on 99, called for a quick single but Rossington was well short of his ground when sub fielder Balderson’s throw reached Salt at the wickets.

And Wood produced a snorter that Simon Harmer gloved to Salt to considerably improve the mood in the home dressing room at the close.

Lancashire bowling Coach Graham Onions hailed a great effort by the bowling unit on a fairly even day against Essex.

“We hung in, bowled consistently and got our rewards towards the end,” he said.

“It’s a bit of a cliché but tomorrow morning is going to be very important.

And Onions praised the way the bowlers’ had stuck to their task today.

“You have to try and control the run rate, get into your spells right away and bowl as well as you can,” he added.

“Try to only go for 2.5 to 3 runs per over and I think we did that beautifully.

“I thought Woody in particular, who hasn’t had his rewards over the last few weeks, turned up today. That wicket towards the end was an absolute snorter to get rid of Harmer who is a dangerous player in the lower order.

“Now we’ve got to back it up tomorrow morning.

Onions is enjoying the good pitches that have been produced so far this season.

“These pitches are brilliant. It’s unheard of in April and early May (to have these types of pitches). It’s what we want.

“The short ball was a good ploy (today) and it was a fantastic catch by Dane,” he said. “I’ve never seen one like that before.”

“I feel we are in a position in the game where we’ve done the hard work and it’s a case of finishing off (tomorrow).

This is Hassan Ali’s final match of his stint with Lancashire and Onions was full of praise for the Pakistan international who received his Lancashire Cap at the start of play.

“He’s been an absolute joy to have him around,” he said.

“I’ve not done that much work with him. He’s a highly skilful quick bowler but what we love here is that he brings so much energy.

“On fairly tough days he’s still laughing and joking but he’s still got that energy that he wants to put into match-winning spells.

“He’s took loads of wickets and we’d love to have him back.”   

Ken Grime
Photos: George Franks & Luke Adams

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