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Late wickets boost for Lancs against Warwicks on opening day

Late wickets boost for Lancs against Warwicks on opening day

The meeting of the top two teams in last year’s LV= Insurance County Championship did not disappoint as Lancashire and Warwickshire fought out an enthralling battle on the opening day of this year’s Championship contest at Emirates Old Trafford.

Dom Sibley held the defending champions innings together with a determined, unbeaten century, riding out some tough passages of play against the Red Rose attack but also playing some lovely drives off front and back foot.

On a good wicket the Lancashire bowlers, missing James Anderson (rested) and Saqib Mahmood (shoulder), ran in hard all day. Tom Bailey took 3-50 and Matt Parkinson snared two vital wickets during the afternoon as Warwickshire reached stumps on 273-7.

At the start of the day Alex Davies - returning to Emirates Old Trafford for the first time since his winter move to Warwickshire - had a morning to forget after being bowled for a duck shouldering arms to Bailey, the bowler with whom he shared a first-class debut with ten years ago.

And the Bears’ morning worsened when Luke Wood, back in the side after injury, produced a beautiful yorker to send Rob Yates' off stump cartwheeling out of the ground after the batsman had made 15 of the 35 runs scored.

But Sibley and Sam Hain steadied the innings to reach lunch on 84-2, the pair driving nicely when the bowlers strayed, but by no means having it easy as all the Red Rose bowlers beat the bat. Wood also thudded a short delivery into Sibley's chest but the batsman responding with a superbly timed drive off the back foot for four through cover from the following delivery.

Wood however could feel aggrieved somewhat that four edges off the bat in the morning all evaded the slip cordon by going wide or falling short.   

It was the introduction of spin in the 50th over that provided Lancashire with a much needed breakthrough after Sibley and Hain had settled well to steadily build their alliance to 82 runs by mid-afternoon.

Hain, on 38, advanced down the wicket to Parkinson's sixth delivery and - having turned it into a full toss - succeeded in chipping it straight to sub fielder Rob Jones who took the catch above his head at short extra cover.

Bears skipper Will Rhodes, who had opted to bat after calling correctly at the toss, hit out aggressively at Parkinson for consecutive boundaries over mid-wicket but  then departed for 16 after the bowler turned one sharply into his stumps to leave Warwickshire on 141-4.

Sibley and Chris Benjamin responded with a fine 99-run partnership either side of tea, Sibley going to his hundred from 227 balls (13 fours) at the start of the final hour and the attacking Benjamin striking the ball cleanly in his 47.

But a late ten over spell with the new ball brought Lancashire great reward as three wickets fell for 23 runs.

Benjamin and Michael Burgess (18) both departed lbw to Bailey (3-49), each batsman guilty of trying to work the ball to the leg side.

Then Danny Briggs was snapped up for 1 after Keaton Jennings took an excellent catch low down to his left at second slip off Hassan Ali.

Nathan McAndrew helped Sibley (118 not out) prevent any further damage to reach the close on 273-7.

Tom Bailey hailed the three late wickets that fell as “massively important”.

“Otherwise it would have been Warwickshire’s day, but I think we swung it back our way” he added.

“We knew the wicket would be good and there would be a bit in it (for us) this morning. But after that it flattened out, and it showed.”

Bailey admitted there had been a debate about when to take the new ball.

“The bowlers were tired, but we decided to give it a go and thankfully it paid off,” he explained.

“Otherwise you might have been coming back tomorrow with just four wickets down and potentially could be in the field again for the best part of the day. So the fact we got those wickets late on means if we come out firing tomorrow we could be batting by midday.”

Bailey is pleased that he has produced consistent performances again this season.

“It’s my strength. If I’m not hitting lengths consistently then I feel like I don’t get in the team. So it’s something I have to keep doing,” he said.

Bailey had huge praise for the efforts of the Red Rose attack today on a good track.

“Playing here every other week, we have to stick at it if we are going to compete for trophies,” he said.

“I thought the boys put in a great shift.

 “You’ve got the pace with Hassan and Woody, plus Baldy has been impressive. He holds his length and bowls tightly. It’s a pretty balanced attack.

“It feels like a good wicket. That’s why those three wickets were so important tonight. It could easily be a 450-500 run type pitch.

“We’ve always said day two is the best time to bat here. So if we can take the last three wickets early then the boys can capitalise.”   

Ken Grime
Photos: George Franks

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