Blackwell just champion once more
MCC 266 (Blackwell 102*, Kerrigan 4-65) lead Lancashire 38 for 2 (Blackwell 1-4) by 227 runs
Ian Blackwell continued his success in the champion county fixture with a determined unbeaten century, but his good work was somewhat undone by his MCC team-mates as they failed to combat the threat of Lancashire's highly rated left-arm spinner Simon Kerrigan in an enthralling first day of the English county season.
Blackwell, a one-time England Test player, played in successive fixtures for Durham in 2009 and 2010, the latter here at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium with the pink ball and under lights. He scored a century at Lord's in 2009 and took 4 for 70 with his left-arm spin 12 months later. Now he has another performance to remember, 102 not out off 145 balls underpinning a seemingly below-par score of 266. His left-arm spin then accounted for the late wicket of Stephen Moore as Lancashire closed on 38 for two.
"It's obviously a very special fixture," admitted Blackwell, who is still not fully fit after a double hernia operation in November. "My first game was against the MCC at Lord's on my Durham debut, and that was fantastic to get a hundred. I don't know what it is about this match: I just seem to hit the ball very well at the start of the year. I got 160 in the first game of last year as well, a University match."
Kerrigan, one of three spin options in Lancashire's line-up, has spent the majority of his winter on England Lions duty after bursting onto the scene with a string of eye-catching displays. His maiden first-class wicket was that of Ian Bell in 2010, while a spectacular haul of 9 for 51 against Hampshire at Liverpool last September was a key moment in his county's first outright championship win since 1934. If he does not better Blackwell's solitary England Test cap, it will be a major surprise.
He took two wickets in both the first and last session of the day to finish with 4 for 65 from 18 overs. He bowled Mark Ramprakash with his third ball and also removed Stephen Peters as the MCC stumbled to 73 for four before Blackwell fashioned a recovery that looked to have put his side firmly back on track on a pitch displaying decent pace and carry as well as help for the spinners.
Lancashire captain Glen Chapple had claimed the first wicket to fall and Tom Smith also struck, but Blackwell and fellow left-hander Moeen Ali united with great effect. Strong on the sweep against the spin of Kerrigan and Gary Keedy, the first time Blackwell looked troubled was in the last hour of the middle session when the floodlights began to take effect. He shared 95 inside 28 overs with Moeen, who fell for 33 when he shouldered arms to Chapple and navigated testing spells from Lancashire's seamers as day turned into night.
It was in the final session of the day that Lancashire did get their rewards, however, as the MCC lost their last five wickets for 40 runs.
"Kerrigan's a very good bowler who England are obviously looking closely at," Blackwell said. "He's finding his feet and learning his trade, but he keeps taking wickets. That can't be ignored. If Lancashire keep nurturing him like they are, he'll turn out to be a very good bowler."
Kerrigan suggested that 266 was a par score or "maybe a bit below", and added: "There's a little bit in the pitch. It seemed to go through periods of being flat, but it's pretty tough to bat on if the bowlers nail their areas."
The latter part of that theory was strengthened when Lancashire's openers began their reply. Rana forced Horton to nibble at one and edge behind to O'Brien in the eighth over before Blackwell capped off his impressive day by trapping Moore in front.