Lancashire v Northamptonshire, Old Trafford, 2nd day June 21, 2013

Lancashire refute pitch claims after big win

Myles Hodgson at Old Trafford

Lancashire 159 (Azharullah 4-42) and 73 for 2 beat Northamptonshire 62 (Hogg 7-27, Chapple 3-34) and 169 (Hall 55, Murphy 50, Procter 4-39) by eight wickets

Lancashire have dismissed criticism of the pitch at Old Trafford after wrapping up a convincing eight-wicket victory over Northamptonshire, their main rivals in Division Two, inside two days.

The victory, achieved with three overs remaining after they took an extra half hour to finish the game, reduced Northamptonshire's lead at the top of the table to 17 points having played a game more, but it was a triumph marred by controversy over the state of the wicket.

Despite Jack Birkenshaw, the ECB pitch inspector, clearing the surface after concluding that high-quality seam bowling and average batting were the contributory factors to 18 wickets falling on the opening day, it was not a verdict that satisfied David Smith, Northamptonshire's chief executive.

Smith, who was at Old Trafford for the opening day, claimed the wicket was "akin to an out-ground and a poor one at that" in an interview with the Northamptonshire Telegraph. "What level of preparation went into this wicket?" he said. "We can only guess but it looked underprepared and the scorecard supports this view."

The controversial surface lies several away on the square from that being prepared for the third Ashes Test, which starts on August 1.

Mike Watkinson, Lancashire's director of cricket, not surprisingly disagreed with Smith's verdict, despite the same pitch being marked as sub-standard last year against Worcestershire. On that occasion Lancashire escaped with a warning because the square had only recently been turned as part of the ground's re-development.

"Jack Birkenshaw has been here on behalf of the ECB during preparation time for the game and for the entire match and in his opinion it has been swnging ball, climatic conditions and poor batting that has led to the wickets," said Watkinson.

"I don't think there has been anything sinister from the pitch. We had the first day of a Championship match which was played 80 percent of the day under floodlights and the temperature at 25 degrees with extreme humidity and the ball swinging around corners."

Certainly conditions for batting had improved on the second morning, with the sun attempting to break through the cloud cover, enabling Tom Smith to hit an unbeaten 35 and secure a crucial 97-run first-innings lead.

For long periods of Northamptonshire's reply it appeared they would suffer a humiliating innings defeat well inside two days, with Glen Chapple's new-ball partnership wtih Kyle Hogg once again proving productive. They combined to make an early breakthrough when Kyle Coetzer mistimed a defensive shot against Hogg that looped to Chapple at mid-on.

Chapple followed up with a full length delivery that seamed back into David Sales and knocked back his off-stump and James Middlebrook fell to the next ball, shuffling across his stumps to fall lbw to Hogg. At that stage, Lancashire had claimed their last 26 Championship wickets for only 109 runs, with their in-form opening pair claiming all but two.

At least Northamptonshire resisted long enough this time to force Lancashire into a bowling change for the first time in 59.1 Championship overs, when left-arm spinners Simon Kerrigan and Stephen Parry, both selected to try and exploit a dry surface, were finally utilised shortly before lunch.

Instead of having a major impact, a new pair of Lancashire seamers effectively ended Northamptonshire's resistance, with Luke Procter and Tom Smith inducing a mini-collapse of four wickets for 45 runs in 12 overs after lunch. Two of those dismissals were self-induced, with Steven Crook chipping Procter to midwicket and David Willey mistiming to mid-on.

When David Murphy joined Andrew Hall at the crease for the start of Northamptonshire's eighth-wicket partnership, they were still trailing by 17 runs but demonstrated that sensible batting could prosper by both scoring half-centuries and forging an 89-run stand, the biggest of the match on either side.

They batted together for 31 overs but in sight of setting a potentially testing target for Lancashire to chase in the final innings, they lost wickets in a cluster once again, the last three falling in only eight balls to leave a modest victory chase of 73. Despite losing Procter to the third ball of the reply, edging Willey down the leg side, Lancashire sealed their victory with plenty of time to spare and close the gap on Northamptonshire.

Their coach, David Ripley, was less critical of the surface than Smith but he wasn't impressed with the performance of his batsmen on the second day when conditions eased. "My personal view of the pitch was that if it was a little below par on the first day, it was genuine," he said.

"On day one I had a lot of sympathy against two good bowlers in seamer-friendly conditions and it was tough. I was actually more disappointed today because I thought the wicket was a lot easier and we had two guys really dig in for us and make a substantial partnership but no other partnerships."

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Martin on June 22, 2013, 9:52 GMT

    @TimWalton - got away with what? Both teams played on the same pitch. Both teams have very good seamers and brittle top orders - Hall and Tom Smith both showed you can score runs in this strip with the right approach and technique.

    Lancs won through the excellence of their attack.

    As we used to say when I played and people were moaning about a decision or result "look it up in tomorrows paper".

  • Anthony Joseph on June 22, 2013, 9:24 GMT

    FieryFerg observes that Lancashire's title came from playing on 'club' grounds. Minimal research shows that they gained 125 points outside the county compared with 121 at home - half the victories were at home, of the other half outside the county where victories came at Edgbaston, Southampton, Trent Bridge and Headingley. Thank God England never use such inferior club grounds.

  • Martin on June 22, 2013, 8:51 GMT

    Northants are deluding themselves if they blame the pitch for their batting struggles. The fact is, their top 6 without Peters and Newton are not good enough and they can't always rely on the lower order to bail them out. They miss Copeland's runs as much as his wickets.

  • steven on June 22, 2013, 7:54 GMT

    Northants trouble was that they turned up saw a dry surface and Lancs having two spinners in the side and thought this would be a pitch favouring spin like the same pitch last season. Unfortunately for them it was a muggy day and they faced two of the most in form opening bowlers who took advantage of the swinging ball and also the fact that the batsmen played poorly. They just could not handle the swinging ball and anyone who thinks you should punish a team for the pitch when the overhead condition is the biggest reason for wickets, followed by poor batsmen is a biased idiot. Both lower orders showed what could be achieved with intelligent batting and even inexperienced Luis Reece scored a few at the top. Of whom I hope to see more in the Lancs first team. Maybe Northants has been doing too much t20 batting practice which lead to indifferent shot selection for a tricky championship match, just one suggestion.

  • Dummy4 on June 22, 2013, 6:44 GMT

    I was there both days, the ball was not misbehaving. Watch the highlights on the ECB site before passing judgement.

  • Dummy4 on June 22, 2013, 1:57 GMT

    the pitch inspector thought the wicket was ok but you can't please everyone, i'd imagine had Northamp's won the game they'd be praising the Old Trafford groundstaff for creating a result pitch rather than a flat boring 550/5 wicket. the facts are there was good conditions for bowling, poor batting on both sides and good pace bowling by both teams and maybe Northamp's choked under the pressure of such a big game.

  • Dummy4 on June 21, 2013, 23:49 GMT

    Having been to the first day, there was nothing wrong with the pitch. The bounce was true and balls carried through at good pace. Batsmen were simply out done by good quality swing bowling.

  • Tim on June 21, 2013, 21:40 GMT

    Lancashire have got away with it AGAIN!

    I hope David Smith makes an official protest.

  • Fergus on June 21, 2013, 21:16 GMT

    Shouldn't be surprised - Lancs only won the championship by playing on club grounds. Relegation was a truer reflection of the quality of their squad. Once again though it looks like Northants may fall apart as things heat up.

  • Des on June 21, 2013, 21:14 GMT

    Having been to both days, I wasn't in the least worried that Lancs would suffer a points deduction. There was some variable bounce but middle to lower order batsmen showed what could be done on it

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