Lancashire need to dig deep after collapse
Worcestershire 209 for 6 v Lancashire 161
Lancashire will have to find another measure of the will to win that has served them so well in their quest for the Championship after Worcestershire demonstrated their determination to preserve their Division One status by establishing what could be the makings of a valuable lead.
Bowled out for 161 - failing to win a batting point but at least recovering from 85 for 8 - they reduced Worcestershire to 77 for 5, but could not find a way to halt opener James Cameron's progress towards a first hundred of the season.
Cameron finished unbeaten on 87 after he and wicketkeeper Ben Scott shared a partnership so far unbroken of 90 as Worcestershire claimed their first batting point to extend their lead over Yorkshire from two points to four, having played one game fewer.
With only two weeks remaining in the Championship, for this round to throw up three matches in which promotion and relegation are both at stake illustrates what a fascinating run-in lies ahead.
Lancashire will keep track anxiously of goings-on at Edgbaston, Hove and Taunton after another collective performance with the bat that some might argue suggests a Championship lacking in quality. They may have won eight matches, which is a commendable effort matched only by Warwickshire, but they have been bowled out for less than 200 in six of their last 11 innings, which is somewhat less meritworthy.
Indeed, the morning could not have gone a lot worse for them, eight down by 10 minutes to one, having lost three men without scoring, one for a single and another for three. A few balls kept low and a good few swung but the regular fall of wickets left spectators slightly incredulous nonetheless.
Jack Birkenshaw, the ECB's duty pitch liaison office, has been unable so far to find anything to lead him to question whether the surface is up to scratch and may have concluded, as others might, that a team with Lancashire's ambitions ought to be able to come through a difficult first morning without falling in a heap. But, then again, who these days can do any better?
Lancashire, moreover, had chosen to bat first. Yet they lost their first wicket in the fourth over when veteran seamer Alan Richardson brought one back to have Paul Horton leg before, compounded when Karl Brown shouldered arms to a ball from Kemar Roach in the next and was out in the same way.
Roach, the 23-year-old fast bowler from Barbados, is making his Championship debut for Worcestershire, who named left-arm spinner Shaaiq Choudry in their squad but left him out of the XI. Roach, who bowls with a skiddy action, can let slip a seriously quick delivery but he does not buy his wickets cheaply.
He found a couple of good balls to dismiss Tom Smith and Sajid Mahmood but both Mahmood and Kyle Hogg dumped him over the fence on the short pavilion side as he conceded 69 in a dozen overs. After Brown had gone, Lancashire twice lost wickets in consecutive balls, Richard Jones bowling Stephen Moore with one that kept a little now and swinging another into Steven Croft's pads.
Gareth Andrew, an unpretentious allrounder who is enjoying his best season with bat and ball, actually took three wickets in four balls, hurrying one through to beat Mark Chilton's late defensive push, bringing one back to trap Gareth Cross and then bowling skipper Glen Chapple off an inside edge. Roach then squared Smith up a little as he edged to first slip and Lancashire were eight down.
After that, Worcestershire will wonder how Lancashire managed almost to double their total. They collected their third batting point three balls after lunch when Roach was too good for Mahmood but not before the former England bowler had smacked 28 off 24 balls, including a square cut six off the West Indian.
Mahmood's counter-attacking mood was picked up by Hogg and again Worcestershire suffered. Hogg went after Richardson and Roach with some success, smearing six off the former before a top-edged pull off the latter carried into the seats in the Graeme Hick Pavilion. By the time he holed out to mid-on he had hit 46 off 43 balls and Lancashire's last two wickets had added a valuable 76.
Worcestershire's batting looked not a lot less fragile, at least at first. Hogg soon had Daryl Mitchell back in the hut, caught low down at third slip, and Vikram Solanki gave his wicket away with a loose cut straight to gully off Chapple.
Smith, the pick of the Lancashire bowlers, produced an excellent delivery, finding some extra bounce, to have Moeen Ali caught at first slip and then bowled Alexei Kervezee, whose run of low scores continued when he played all around one to be bowled for 1.