Cork bowls Lancashire to dominance
Lancashire 384 and 146 for 4 (Horton 60) lead Nottinghamshire 304 (Wagh 94, Voges 55, Franks 40*) by 226 runs
A forceful bowling performance from Dominic Cork helped to put Lancashire in a good position to press for victory on the final day, although a draw is still a strong possibility on a pitch doing little to assist bowlers.
Nottinghamshire began the day looking to build on their overnight score of 148 for 2 and the day started with some more stirring cricket than might have been expected from the rather leisurely course of this match so far. Cork and Sajid Mahmood in particular really bent their backs to flog whatever life they could out of a somnolent pitch, but were in turn met with confident and positive batting from Mark Wagh and Adam Voges.
Then came the crucial ball of the day. Cork suddenly made one fly at Voges out of nowhere, the ball lobbing off the back of his left hand out on the off side, only to fall short of the fielders running in. An inordinately long time was allowed for treatment, but two overs later he was forced to retire hurt and seek an X-ray on his hand. The score at this point was 172 for 2, with Voges on 42.
With Samit Patel, fresh from his triumph at Riverside, making a flying start and racing to double figures off six balls, including two pulls for four off Mahmood, Nottinghamshire at first appeared unaffected by Voges's accident. Wagh on 76 was dropped at long leg as he skied a hook off Cork, but was denied a century, as on 94 he played back to Steven Croft when he should have played forward, and edged the ball on to his leg stump.
This began a middle-order collapse, with Cork at the centre of things in a superb spell as he rolled back the years, bowling with a good pace, accuracy, skill and sheer force of character. He did receive a little help, to make up for his bad luck earlier: Chris Read played a poor shot first ball to be caught at slip, while Graeme Swann's lbw may have been a little doubtful - he certainly thought so. Patel hit Gary Keedy for six over wide long-on and four through extra cover in the same over, but the bowler struck back when Mark Ealham (2) unwisely lashed at a ball outside off stump and edged a slip catch. When Patel skied a swat to leg and was caught at midwicket, Nottinghamshire had slumped to 234 for 7 - five wickets had gone down for 23 runs.
This virtually forced Voges to return, ready or not, and he did move smoothly to his fifty, off 97 balls. He fell soon after lunch for 55, though, a leg-side strangle off Oliver Newby, but at the time of need Paul Franks (40 not out) and Darren Pattinson (12) halted Lancashire's advance with a fighting ninth-wicket stand of 49.
Pattinson finally fell to a simple bat-pad catch off Keedy, and Cork greeted last man Charlie Shreck, not the most popular man among the visitors, with several bouncers before bowling him for nought with a superb yorker that extracted his middle stump. The umpires had earlier decided to take no action regarding Shreck's misbehaviour on the field during the first two days.
Nottinghamshire were dismissed for 304, less than had looked likely overnight; more than looked likely soon after lunch. Lancashire earned themselves a lead of 80 on first innings, with Cork returning the best figures of 3 for 60, and two wickets each for Newby, Keedy and Croft. They would have done better had they held two none-too-difficult chances during the day.
It could not be said that there was really a bouncer war between the two teams, as the bowlers were not fast enough, and neither was the pitch, but Shreck did try bowling short at the Lancashire openers, and generally got pulled for his pains. Paul Horton in particular took advantage, and the opening pair added 51 before Iain Sutcliffe (17) mistimed a pull and was well caught by Matthew Wood running back from midwicket. The lucky bowler was Ealham, who was uncharacteristically loose to start with, but then changed to the Brian Statham end with benefit.
Mal Loye played some good strokes and looked to be finding his form again, until he fell for 24 to a classic dismissal. Ealham at slip saw him shaping to reverse-sweep Swann and scuttled over to his right, to find the ball coming sharp and fast straight into his hands. Lou Vincent looked more at home than in the first innings, and hit Patel for six over long-on, but he also made a start without capitalising, falling to the same bowler for 19.
Meanwhile at the other end Horton, like Old Man River, just kept rolling along, accumulating safely in his unobtrusive but so effective way. His fifty came up off 81 balls, his second of the match, and it was a surprise when he chopped a ball from Franks on to his stumps and departed for 60. With a lead of 226, Lancashire should be looking to declare before lunch on the final day, if their remaining batsmen do their job well enough, and set up a good finish.