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Myles Hodgson at Old Trafford
June 20, 2013
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.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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