Kerrigan spins Lancashire to handsome victory
Lancashire456 (Procter 137, Petersen 81, Hameed 62, Best 5-90) beat Hampshire 109 (Procter 3-14, Anderson 3-42) and 253 (Kerrigan 5-59, Anderson 3-29) by an innings and 94 runs
Bright blue mornings at Worcester, June afternoons at Canterbury, mist-fringed evenings at Hove. There are days when cricket takes the advice of Barbra Streisand in Hello Dolly and puts on its Sunday clothes.
Then there are mornings like that in Manchester on the final day of this match: the sky louring, the floodlights making pale silhouettes and the cricket watched by fundamentalist, well-fleeced fans, immovable as if on canvas, the steam from their coffee rising in the still air. It is at such times that professional cricketers must buckle down to their work, although Lancashire's cricketers will have needed no incentive to do so, especially after the dismissal of James Vince in the day's fifth over ended one of the early season's longest pre-Test selection discussions.
The sun finally put his hat on in mid-afternoon and he shone most of all on Simon Kerrigan, who knows what a few of cricket's shadows are like, albeit that he is understandably quiet about such matters. Bowling with a smooth rhythm and therefore with greater control, Kerrigan took four of Hampshire's last five wickets and ended the innings when Mason Crane's attempted sweep only dollied a catch to Liam Livingstone at leg slip. That dismissal completed Lancashire's innings and 94-run victory, their second win of a season which, so the doom-peddlers had predicted, would be filled with the plagues of Egypt for them.
When Lancashire went down in 2014, they won just three games and two of those were against Northamptonshire. This victory against Hampshire in a match they totally dominated left Lancashire top of the Division One table for two hours until Yorkshire beat Surrey at Leeds, though no one was quicker than their coach, Ashley Giles, to point out that there are four months and more of the season left. All the same, as a group of Steven Croft's players indulged in a post-match kickabout on the Old Trafford, outfield they did so with the air of men who had got a Miseryguts the monkey off their backs. Certainly Kerrigan had. His 2014 record did not include a single five-wicket haul. And he knew it. Most bowlers do.
What only became clear a little later, however, was that this was Kerrigan's first five-wicket return for Lancashire in top-flight domestic cricket since he took 9 for 51, also against Hampshire, in the title-winning summer of 2011. And on that September afternoon rain fell everywhere except Aigburth, miracles arrived with the Eccles cakes and the late Roy Tattersall, a Lancashire and England spinner of the 1950s, beamed with pleasure amid serious illness. Cricket can do that.
Hampshire had begun the day 271 runs in arrears - they effectively needed to bat all three sessions for the draw - and that deficit had been reduced by only eight when Vince off drove James Anderson for four with impressive finality. But that boundary was the prelude to the end of Vince's 165-ball innings of 47. The next ball looked similar but was a tad slower and maybe a smidgeon shorter. Vince looked to drive but got in something of a tangle and only gave a catch to Neil Wagner to short, straight cover. Lancastrian joy amid Mancunian gloom. And at last we could stop talking about whether Vince's performances would get him in the Test team. Wars against Troy have been completed more quickly than that debate.
But Lancashire were swiftly disabused of the notion that the departure of their captain would dissolve Hampshire's resistance. This is the side that avoided relegation last September when no one gave a Betamax tape for their chances and they have already fought a tenacious rearguard at Headingley. The glares of Anderson and the chirps of wicketkeeper Alex Davies, that pint-pot of irritation, were no more oppressive than the opponents Hampshire have already stared down.
For all that Wagner huffed, puffed and dug it in, Lancashire took only one more wicket in the morning's play but it was clear that Kerrigan was looping it well and dropping most of his balls on the spot. One of these accounted for Liam Dawson, when the Hampshire man failed to get to the pitch of a slow left-armer's stock delivery and Croft took the catch at slip. Hampshire lunched on 151 for 4 with the outcome of the match nothing like decided. Some of the visitors' toughest warriors remained.
Croft took the new ball four overs after the resumption and it brought an immediate reward when Will Smith was lbw for 47 to a ball from Kyle Jarvis which nipped back off the pitch to end his 258-minute innings. Still, though, Vince's men were not done. When they defied the champions at Headingley, Adam Wheater, another scrapping keeper, batted for 176 minutes and Ryan McLaren, for just over two hours. This pair now saw off Croft's seamers in an hour-long stand and it was left to Kerrigan and the legspin of Livingstone to break the back of the innings.
Kerrigan, now operating from the Statham End, had Wheater lbw on the back foot to a ball that came on a little with the arm; two overs later, the ball looped up off the edge of McLaren's bat and Anderson dived from second slip to gully for the catch. Lancashire's cricketers could taste the lagers in the dressing room now. Just three more good nuts were needed.
The first of these was bowled by Livingstone, who took his maiden first-class wicket when he bamboozled Tino Best on the back foot; the second was delivered by Kerrigan, who had Gareth Andrew pouched at short leg by Haseeb Hameed; the third was also bowled by Kerrigan, who pitched one on middle and leg and invited Crane to attempt that fatal sweep.
Then there were hugs under blue skies, those lagers and, for the second time this season, a victory song that drowned out the dull metallic thrum of the Talbot Road.