Procter writes script on day of tales
Lancashire 296 for 8 (Procter 65*, Prince 63, Tomlinson 3-56) v Hampshire
The first day of this game suggested a variety of potentially intriguing individual stories. There was Brad Taylor, a 16-year-old offspinner who became the youngest player ever to represent Hampshire in the County Championship; there was Simon Kerrigan, who was returning to first-class domestic cricket perhaps seeking balm for his mauling by Shane Watson at The Oval; and there was Matt Coles, a loan signing who was making his Hampshire debut having announced that he is to leave Kent at the end of the season.
In the event, a day's cricket which resolutely defied simple analysis produced other tales, albeit that Coles's hostile second spell offered some explanation why counties may consider adding the allrounder to their staff in the autumn. By the close Lancashire had made good progress on a wicket which currently offers few terrors for the batsmen. Luis Reece and Ashwell Prince both made polished half-centuries in the first half of the day and Luke Procter ended proceedings unbeaten on 65, his fifth Championship half-century in consecutive innings and a most diligent, hard-grafting effort against a Hampshire attack which applied itself well for all but an hour in the morning session.
Lancashire go into the second day of this game on 296 for 8 after Hampshire, to their great credit, managed to bowl 97 overs in six hours, a marvellous example to other counties of simple efficiency.. If Glen Chapple's team currently hold the advantage in this contest, it is not by much, for their total seems little more than par on a good wicket on a small ground with a fast outfield.
Indeed, Lancashire coach Peter Moores may be a trifle disappointed given the apparent dominance his batsmen exercised just before lunch when Reece and Prince had added 120 for the second wicket in only 26 overs. But that was the high point of Lancastrian fortunes. Prince edged Sean Ervine to Adam Wheater and departed for 63 two overs before the break while the very promising Reece, having also reached his fifth successive half-century in the Championship, was lbw when he shuffled across his wicket and was lbw to James Tomlinson for exactly 50 in the second over after the restart.
The afternoon's cricket was in sharp contrast to the morning's play. Just 74 runs were scored off 34 overs as the Lancashire middle order sought and failed to shake off the manacles placed upon them by Jimmy Adams's bowlers. Steven Croft fell to Liam Dawson for a 52-ball 9 and Andrea Agathangelou could only fend Coles to third slip James Vince when he had laboured 99 minutes for 30.
At tea Lancashire were 207 for 5 and Hampshire's bowlers had restored parity. If the Red Rose shaded the evening's play it was because they now have a decent score on the board and victory in this match would virtually guarantee a return to Division One.
The highlight of the final session, perhaps, was the quartet of boundaries struck by Gareth Cross off Tomlinson after the visitors had taken the new ball. But the seamer responded by having Cross caught by Ervine in the slips a couple of overs later and finished with a creditable 3 for 56. It was that sort of day: as soon as the match followed one pattern, an event or two scribbled "nonsense" on one's tentative conclusions. Procter's diligence in facing 137 balls and hitting eight boundaries in his 65 not out was arguably the only consistent factor in the second half of proceedings.
As for the players we thought might capture our attention, Kerrigan was the only one not to appear and Taylor bowled eight overs for 42 runs. Just as the Lancashire spinner discovered at The Oval last week, the Hampshire offspinner found out what it is like to make the step up to a new class of cricket. But Taylor sent down a fairly decent second spell and he will undoubtedly remember his first day in what, for him, is the big time.