Chapple masterclass props up Lancashire
Warwickshire 68 for 5 trail Lancashire 250 (Maddy 4-39) by 182 runs
If any further evidence were needed of Lancashire's ability to prosper in difficult situations, captain Glen Chapple provided a masterclass in the art of transforming his team's fortunes with an impressive all-round display against Warwickshire.
Having consistently fought back from dire positions last summer to pip Warwickshire for the title against all expectations, it was perhaps fitting that Lancashire chose the same opponents to deliver a determined performance every bit as good as those last summer in cold conditions by the Mersey.
Facing the prospect of a second successive match without batting points, Chapple's aggressive innings guided them to a competitive 250 in bowler-friendly conditions before contributing two late wickets - including Ian Bell - as Warwickshire lost five quick wickets before the close.
It continued Chapple's great record against Warwickshire, against whom he has scored two of his six first-class centuries while his 78 wickets against them represents his best return against any side other than Durham. In delivering another superb all-round display, he has also transformed the momentum of a match that looked to be heading firmly away from Lancashire.
"It's a good day from where we were overnight," Chapple said. "We grafted a lot yesterday but obviously lost a couple of wickets that we didn't want to and that can change the face of the game. Today we worked really hard and came out on top."
Arriving at the crease with Lancashire struggling on 170 for 7, having battled their way through an attritional morning when they added only 47 runs in 32 overs, Chapple chose to play aggressively and dominated a crucial 60-run eighth-wicket stand with Luke Procter: Lancashire's emerging allrounder.
While Proctor reined in any attacking instincts to battle for three and a half hours for his 46 runs, Chapple raced to 44 from 49 balls and by the time he became one of four victims for Darren Maddy, Lancashire were in sight of a second batting point.
"It's risky playing aggressively but batting lower down the order sometimes you can say you haven't got the tools to deal with it for a long time so you get a bit of a licence," explained Chapple. "It's the way I play best, if I show a bit of intent, but you need a bit of luck when you do it."
If Chapple was fortunate with bat in hand, there was nothing lucky about his immediate impact with the ball. Tempting Varun Chopra into edging an outswinger behind with his fourth ball was a classic Chapple dismissal that has occurred consistently during his 21 seasons with Lancashire.
Perhaps trying to mimic Chapple's earlier aggression, Warwickshire chose to open with Neil Carter for the second successive match and he responded by breaking the windscreen of the refreshment van with a pulled six off Kyle Hogg. Revenge was swift, however, when he also edged behind during an impressive opening spell from the River End.
Chapple was forced to take painkillers after jarring his ankle in the footmarks from the Pavilion End during his opening spell, and his absence from the attack allowed Bell to make tentative progress in his first innings of the season. No batsman, even one of Bell's obvious class, can ever feel too secure in such bowler-friendly conditions, however, and he also fell in Chapple's first over back into the attack to another catch behind.
Fearing the day would end prematurely for bad light, Chapple quickly turned to his two spinners, Simon Kerrigan and Gary Keedy, who responded by claiming a wicket apiece before the close to suggest they may also have an increasing influence in the second half of the match.