<
>

Remarkable turnaround gives Lancashire first win in 14

Lancashire 109 (C Overton 5-47, Groenewald 3-8) and 463 (Livingstone 168, Davies 130, Gregory 5-74) beat Somerset 278 (Elgar 113*, McLaren 4-76) and 130 (Hildreth 43, McLaren 4-37) by 164 runs
Scorecard

The signing of Ryan McLaren as Lancashire's overseas player last October did not prompt wild rejoicing in Chorley or street-parties in Bacup. "Who's this McLaren, then?" was the gruff reaction among members more used to watching cricketers like Ashwell Prince or VVS Laxman display their skills at Emirates Old Trafford.

Lancashire, though, knew what they were about. McLaren's full-hearted performances for Hampshire had earned their respect and he was precisely the type of cricketer they needed for the scraps ahead in an eight-team First Division.

So when their new signing shattered Tim Groenewald's stumps at precisely 4.35 on Monday afternoon, Lancashire's hierarchy, which had included Ashley Giles last autumn, could feel that their judgement had been vindicated. McLaren's accurate, canny medium-fast bowling on a pitch offering variable bounce had earned him match figures of 8 for 113 and it had also played a major role in securing one of the most remarkable victories in the county's history. A first Championship win, indeed, for almost a year.

Just for a moment, let us rewind a little. On Friday Lancashire were bowled out for 109 on a helpful pitch. However, as head coach, Glen Chapple, said later it was not the sort of surface to justify that miserable total. By Saturday afternoon Somerset had carved out a first-innings lead of 169 only for Lancashire to amass 463 in their second dig and then bowl them out for 130. Tom Abell, Somerset's young skipper, is discovering that it is a tough world.

Much of the credit for the win will go to the centurions, Alex Davies and Liam Livingstone, and rightly so. Indeed, Livingstone's efforts last season and this were acknowledged on Monday evening when he was awarded his county cap. But Lancashire's batsmen had only made defeat less likely; victory was achieved by the bowlers on the final afternoon and it left the Lancashire coach struggling to remember a comeback of similar proportions.

"After the first innings the remainder of the game has been a sustained effort of determination, quality cricket and a team unit sticking together," said Chapple. "The lads are delighted and it's a fabulous way to win. It needed a remarkable effort from the batting unit and the partnership between Alex and Liam was of high quality. It was what was needed if we were going to have any chance.

"Everyone can see that Liam is a big occasion player as well as a quality player but the responsibility of captaincy will help. He seems really driven and determined to do well for Lancashire and obliviously he is now a talking point for further honours. How quickly they come I'm not sure. It came a lot faster than we expected and we thought it would go down to the last few overs but it is great to get over the line early."

It is probably understandable if Chapple's comments revealed a degree of shock. When Lancashire lost their last three wickets for seven runs halfway through the first session, Somerset needed 295 at a rate of 3.83 runs per over to win the game. It looked like a decent contest, the type that batsmen of the pedigree of Marcus Trescothick and James Hildreth might relish. Yet from the moment Dean Elgar played across the line to Kyle Jarvis just after lunch, Somerset's batsmen were placed under pressure that never slackened.

Abell was probably unlucky, as are most batsmen who are strangled down the leg side. But McLaren's removal of the Somerset skipper was the prelude to a wonderful seven-over spell from the Pavilion End by James Anderson who accounted for Trescothick, caught at slip by Livingstone for 36, and Steven Davies, who failed to jab down on one that kept low.

"You look back at phases of the game which change the course and Jimmy Anderson's spell was certainly one of them," said Abell. "But it was always going to be tough today and there were balls which had people's names on them unfortunately."

Abell's judgement is fair but it also does a little less than credit to the efforts of McLaren and Jordan Clark, the latter's inclusion perhaps made possible by the fact that more bowlers can be accommodated if your wicketkeeper, Alex Davies in this case, is a quality batsman who can open the innings.

Clark, indeed, made the next breakthrough when Peter Trego's tentative push only edged the ball to Livingstone, for whom batting, captaincy, cricket and life in general must be something of a doddle these days. McLaren then removed both Hildreth and Josh Davey leg before wicket and at tea Somerset could reflect on a session in which they had lost seven wickets for 78 runs. Friday morning must have seemed the most distant of memories.

The cricket after tea was notable for the exotic dismissal of Jack Leach, caught at third man by Haseeb Hameed off Clark for nought, but otherwise it was taken up with the game's last knockings. Before long Lancashire's players were in a joyous huddle on the Old Trafford outfield and no player seemed more delighted than Anderson, whose explosion of joy when he removed Trescothick was both a demonstration of his gut loyalties and a recognition of how important his wicket remains, at 41, to Somerset's cricket and morale.

It was Lancashire's first win in 14 County Championship games, a run stretching back to May 24th last year. Three players, Dane Vilas, Rob Jones and McLaren were able to sing the club's victory song for the first time. This made no great demands on their memory, for it consists of the single word "Lancashire". Apparently Stephen Sondheim helped with the lyrics. For McLaren the joy must have been especially sweet; Lancashire supporters know who he is now alright.

Somerset 4th innings Partnerships

WktRunsPlayers
1st29ME TrescothickD Elgar
2nd9ME TrescothickTB Abell
3rd40ME TrescothickJC Hildreth
4th8SM DaviesJC Hildreth
5th13PD TregoJC Hildreth
6th4JC HildrethL Gregory
7th4L GregoryJH Davey
8th10L GregoryC Overton
9th12MJ LeachC Overton
10th1TD GroenewaldC Overton