Local lads help Lancashire prosper
Hampshire 210 and 137 for 7 need a further 359 runs to beat Lancashire 421 and 284 for 5 (Horton 111, Reece 65, Taylor 4-64)
In one respect, at least, "outground" is a misnomer. Although venues away from a county's headquarters do, indeed, entail a journey from a now familiar stadium or ground, they are also a return to the club environment in which almost all players learn the game and to which very many will return when their first-class days are done. Perhaps that is why so many county cricketers show obvious pleasure at the prospect of outground cricket and excel when they play it.
Certainly Lancashire's players enjoyed themselves in Southport's familiar surroundings over the first three days of this match. And why should they have not done so? Most of them will have played club or 2nd XI matches here and over half the side regularly play ECB Premier League cricket here. Such familiarity really does give a team home advantage.
For example, on the third day of a match which Lancashire have bossed in the accustomed manner of league leaders, Paul Horton (Sefton Park and Northern) made a polished 111 off 154 balls and shared an opening stand of 166 with Luis Reece (Leyland) whose own innings of 65 was his sixth successive Division Two half-century in what has become a breakthrough season for him.
Later acceleration was provided by Ashwell Prince and by Andrea Agathangelou (Highfield), the latter batsman hitting braces of fours and sixes in a rapid 28. Such enterprise allowed Lancashire to make 284 for 5 declared in 56 overs and set Hampshire 496 to win, a target which soon proved almost a statistical irrelevance as the visitors limped to 137 for 7 at close of play. Despite the presence of Matt Coles at the wicket, surely all that remains on the fourth morning of this game is for Lancashire to complete their utterly deserved victory.
Yet if it is right to praise Lancashire's dynamic batting in the first half of the third day of this game, it is also proper to laud the efforts of 16-year-old off-spinner Brad Taylor who was making his first-class debut far from home and the Southern Premier League in which he represents Hampshire's Academy. Sticking to his most difficult task with the grit of a seasoned cricketer - you try containing Prince when he has a licence to thrill - Taylor took his first four Championship wickets at a cost of 64 runs in 14 overs. The fact that some of these were the product of the pragmatic exchange of runs for wickets which characterise pre-declaration play does not diminish Taylor's achievement on Friday. He turned the ball and looked a more than decent prospect.
However, the efforts of the Lancashire seam attack on a pitch which rewarded accuracy with the new ball threw the display of their Hampshire counterparts into sharp relief. Glen Chapple had an out of form Jimmy Adams caught at second slip by Agathangelou for 4 but then had to leave the field with an Achilles injury which is still being fully assessed. His team-mates barely noticed his absence as Hampshire's batsmen subsided in the manner of cricketers who know that the four-day format holds no glory for them this summer.
Tom Smith (Chorley and occasionally Formby) accounted for Liam Dawson while Kyle Hogg had Michael Roberts lbw before removing James Vince's off stump when the first innings centurion had made 20. That wicket was Hogg's 56th of the season and he is now the most successful bowler in the County Championship.
Simon Kerrigan (Ormskirk) maintained the form he had begun to discover in the first innings by claiming the wickets of Sean Ervine, who carelessly thrashed him to Luke Procter, the one fielder on the leg side boundary, and also Neil McKenzie, whose 44 was the most significant innings played by a Hampshire batsman on a day many of his colleagues may wish to forget.
Chris Wood's run out raised hopes that the game may be concluded in three days but Coles and Adam Wheater survived until stumps. Barring weather intervention, they have merely succeeded in delaying a victory which will reinforce Lancashire's strong claim to be the best side in Division Two.