Lancashire v Northamptonshire, Old Trafford, 1st day June 20, 2013

Hogg thrives on controversial pitch

Myles Hodgson at Old Trafford

Lancashire 121 for 8 (Katich 30) lead Northamptonshire 62 (Hogg 7-27, Chapple 3-34) by 59 runs

Lancashire face an anxious wait to discover whether they face a points penalty for a sub-standard pitch after 18 wickets fell on day one of their Championship encounter with Division Two leaders Northamptonshire.

Just six weeks before Old Trafford is scheduled to host the third Ashes Test, one of their pitches is under scrutiny for the second time in a year. But the Test match wicket is more central on the square than this surface.

Jack Birkenshaw, an ECB pitch inspector, is expected to rule that outstanding swing and seam bowling and indifferent shot selection were the major factors in Northamptonshire being dismissed for 62 and Lancashire reaching 121 for 8 in reply although he has delayed his final verdict until after witnessing the second day's play.

The dramatic events follow just over 12 months after Lancashire escaped a points penalty, when spin claimed 36 of the 40 wickets to fall in their 205-run defeat to Worcestershire on the same pitch. That pitch was given the benefit of the doubt because the square had been turned 90 degrees as part of Old Trafford's redevelopment.

Like 12 months ago, the two sides were confronted by a dry surface, which prompted them both to field two spinners, but it was the seamers - and particularly the remarkable form of Lancashire's Glen Chapple and Kyle Hogg - that set the theme for the day. After winning the toss and bowling first in humid conditions, Lancashire's new ball pair destroyed Northamptonshire's batting line-up.

Chapple, who claimed five wickets as Lancashire dismissed Essex for 20 last week, began the collapse by inducing Kyle Coetzer into edging low to second slip off the fourth ball of the day. While Chapple produced problems with his seam movement, Hogg was more effective at swinging the ball - particularly with the inswingers that bowled Steven Crook and last man Azarullah - and finished with a career best 7 for 27.

Northamptonshire's demise in only 29.5 overs was the lowest opposition score at Old Trafford since Yorkshire were dismissed for 67 in 1999 and Lancashire's last 23 championship wickets have now cost only 87 runs. That Simon Katich, Lancashire's Australian overseas batsman, is the top scorer on either side with 30 gives a guide to the difficult conditions.

"We were 80-odd for three so the pitch isn't that bad and there has probably been some indifferent batting and good bowling on both sides," claimed Hogg. "It's been very humid which obviously helps the ball swing and it has moved off the seam and any time you get that combination you have a chance of getting some wickets."

Lancashire had equal difficulties against the new ball with emerging allrounder David Willey claiming two early wickets, winning an lbw decision against Ashwell Prince when he shuffled across his stumps while opener Luis Reece had his off-stump clipped by a full-length seaming delivery. They recovered with Andrea Agathangelou forging a 44-run stand with Katich, but lost five wickets for 16 runs to underline the difficulty for new batsmen settling on this wicket.

It took a determined, unbroken 20-run ninth wicket stand between Tom Smith and Stephen Parry, who followed Katich's lead by leaving any delivery that did not threaten the stumps, to guide Lancashire into a potentially decisive 59-run lead. Trailing Northamptonshire by 33 points with a game in hand, they will hope batting conditions - and the prospect of a points penalty - ease sufficiently to allow them to extend their lead and increase the prospect of gaining ground in the division two title race on the leaders.

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  • Mark on June 21, 2013, 11:48 GMT

    With Northants 22-3, still 75 behind, this match may not last beyond Tea anyway.

    @Matt Lyon I recall that reasoning in the general opprobium for that Lords pitch. I was there and it was just awful batting that was at fault. There was not much movement in the air and no particular movement off the pitch but, because of the low scores, people thought that the pitch had to be to blame and it wasn't.

  • Dummy4 on June 21, 2013, 11:14 GMT

    They never dock points for Test Match county grounds anyway - it wouldn't look good, would it now.

  • Mark on June 21, 2013, 10:26 GMT

    @Vikrant Dogra, absolutely right. You remember that match at Taunton a few seasons ago when Middlesex scored 600+ and Somerset replied with more than 800? Was anyone's interest served by that pitch?

    Good to see the pitch inspector take a sensible attitude here. At Lords he was in the 5Live box and was sat with a puzzled look on his face as batsmen played like lemmings against bowling that was almost invariably way outside off stump.

  • Dummy4 on June 21, 2013, 9:03 GMT

    @CricketingStargazer - have to agree with your statement on pitches; funny how pitch inspectors never dock points for pitches that are too heavily loaded in favour of batsmen - aren't they also poor pitches as the balance of the contest between bat and ball is too lopsided?!

  • steven on June 21, 2013, 7:09 GMT

    a muggy day in Manchester with two teams who you would have to say, the bowlers were of much better, if not quality, then certainly form than the top 6 they possessed and so this was always going to be a low scoring affair. At least on this occasion it was high quality new ball bowlers doing the damage in favourable conditions and not the part time off spin of mooen ali. I believe as long as Northants get the last 2 wickets quickly ( unlike Essex last week who lost the will to play after struggling with 9,10 jack) Then all it will take is one really good partnership to get them back in the game. Lancs will not want to chase 200 and they will feel the added pressure that if Northants do win, they will have a big lead at the top.

  • Dan on June 20, 2013, 21:54 GMT

    I've played in conditions like this before. I'm from Manchester and its so humid here, the ball will have been swinging round corners. As Hoggy said, couple that with seam movement and things happen.

  • Mark on June 20, 2013, 21:07 GMT

    And, yes, the Northants collapse when promotion seemed certain was in 2011, not 2010...

  • Mark on June 20, 2013, 20:40 GMT

    Hmmmmm. Better a result pitch than the flat ones that we saw in the last round of matches that produced - with one exception - a string of big scores and mainly draws. However, 18 wickets for 183 does suggest that either it is dire batting, or a poor pitch. I was at that famous game at Lords where Kent and Middlesex threatened to finish on the first day and saw on that occasion that it was dreadful batting rom both sides, so I am willing to give the pitch the benefit of the doubt.

    Northants threw away a far better opportunity than this for promotion in 2010 and, despite the fact that Steven Crook (one of the great beneficiaries of Kent's batting incompetence in that match in 2011) has added some real bite to the attack, you have to wonder if a day like today heralds a repeat: if the lead gets over 80, you would imagine that there will be no way back for Northants in this game at least and those doubts about the staying power of the promotion challenge will return.

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