Yardy helps Sussex turn the tables
Lancashire 124 and 85 for 4 trail Sussex 300 (Yardy 110, Joyce 64) by 91 runs
Sussex may have provided Lancashire with their early momentum towards last summer's historic title success, but they have been anything but accommodating a year on and remain on course to inflict an early and humiliating defeat to the defending champions.
Last summer's innings victory over Sussex at Aigburth, which was followed by an equally convincing triumph over Somerset, provided Lancashire with the belief to go on and end their 77-year wait for Championship success but from the first morning of their defence they have struggled to keep pace with a determined Sussex side led superbly by Michael Yardy.
Arriving at the crease with Sussex struggling on the opening day Yardy steadied their innings and dominated a 164-run stand with Ed Joyce that earned Sussex a 176-run first innings lead and set the platform for what should be a comfortable victory at Lancashire's Merseyside base. A further four Lancashire top order wickets before the close served to only put the gloss on Yardy's earlier determination.
"I didn't feel in throughout the innings," Yardy said. "I always thought there was a ball with your name on it. I think it's a good cricket wicket. It started off a little bit damp but overall there is a bit of bounce and if you bowl well you get your rewards and if you bat well you can score."
Realising it was not a wicket to try and take liberties, Yardy was happy to play a patient game alongside the equally cautious Joyce and they benefitted from Lancashire missing four catches behind the wicket before lunch. Yardy was the chief beneficiary, missed on 85 and 98, before claiming a century that was all the more remarkable for his recent battle against depression.
For all Sussex's domination, however, Lancashire fought back impressively well during the afternoon session. Gareth Cross, Lancashire's wicketkeeper, made amends for missing a regulation catch to reprieve Joe Gatting by stumping Yardy as he toppled out of his crease and earned Simon Kerrigan a second wicket in four overs with an equally sharp catch off Gatting's bottom edge.
Those two breakthroughs allowed Lancashire to restrict Sussex to only 13 runs in the 17 overs after the interval, but the benefits of crease occupation were there for all to see when Amjad Khan enjoyed some lower order hitting that guided his side to 300 - an impressive total on a wicket that claimed 13 wickets on the opening day.
Facing a tricky final session and a major first innings deficit, Lancashire again struggled against Steve Magoffin, Sussex's impressive Australian overseas signing. He continued his good work from the first innings and has consistently extracted more bounce than any other bowler from the River End, which prompted Stephen Moore into an edge to slip while Karl Brown fell lbw shouldering arms to his next delivery.
Ashwell Prince, Lancashire's South African overseas batsman, denied Magoffin a debut hat-trick but Monty Panesar provided a glimpse of the challenge facing the remaining batsmen by turning the ball away from Steven Croft and clipping his off-stump bowling from the same end.
Prince and Luke Procter survived 15 overs before the close, but on Grand National Day Lancashire start as rank outsiders and facing their first defeat in an opening Championship match of a season since 1998 when they lost at Hove.
"We're still in it because we have a couple of batters in there who are playing well," said Peter Moores, Lancashire's positive-thinking coach. "We need to get a lot more runs yet but at Liverpool when two people get in it can look quite straightforward."