• County news

Lancashire show fighting spirit in curtain raiser

Graham Hardcastle in Abu Dhabi
March 28, 2012
MCC 266 (Blackwell 102*, Kerrigan 4-65) and 81 for 8 (Kerrigan 3-28) lead Lancashire 199 (Chapple 42*, Naved-ul-Hasan 3-31) by 148 runs)
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Steven Croft is bowled by Lewis Gregory as Lancashire are bowled out for 199 © Graham Morris

Lancashire displayed the determination and resolve that went a long way to securing their first championship title in 77 years last summer as they tore aside a lackadaisical MCC batting display in the season's opener in Abu Dhabi.

They made a habit of achieving the improbable in 2011, and they have given themselves a real chance of doing it again at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium after reducing the MCC to 81-8, a lead of 148, with some high-class bowling in the final session.

Lancashire were in choppy waters at 106 for 7 just before lunch on a pitch offering help to all bowlers, but Glen Chapple, their captain, top-scored with 42 as the last three wickets put on 93 and then the bowlers showed their mettle.

Peter Moores, Lancashire's coach, has seen such recoveries before. "It's been a typical Lancashire game," he said. "We've got ourselves behind the eight-ball and scrapped very hard to get out of trouble. It's a bit of a trademark for us. We don't lie down easily. It doesn't mean you're always going to win, but you give yourselves a chance.

"Because we're a very close team, you can always expect someone to find something from somewhere. If it doesn't work at the top, it's likely to at the bottom. If it isn't Chapple or [Gary] Keedy with the ball, it will probably work for [Tom] Smith or [Sajid] Mahmood."

In fact, Lancashire were handed the advantage by Simon Kerrigan, their left-arm spinner, who struck three times in a three-over second spell at a cost of just two runs as the MCC collapsed from 67 for 3 to 80 for 8. Smith started the tumble of wickets with a couple of scalps, including the key one of Blackwell, before Kerrigan got Niall O'Brien, Stephen Peters and Gareth Batty - the last two in a double wicket maiden.

Lewis Gregory had earlier played a key bowling role for the MCC. Gregory, a recent England under 19s captain, returned his best figures in first-class cricket in only his fifth game by removing Steven Croft and Luke Procter, prospering at the North End which offered more encouragement to quick bowlers in the desert stadium.

Gregory, at 19, is the youngest player in the match, and he is trying to make a name for himself in longer form of the game having impressed last summer - his breakthrough campaign - in 40-over and Twenty20 cricket. After suffering a back injury last year, the seamer has worked hard during the winter months at remodelling his action to try to become a bigger threat with the red ball.

"I had the stress reaction last summer, which is on the way to a stress fracture," he said. "I haven't had many injury problems before because I didn't bowl a great deal as a youngster, so it was frustrating.

"I've done quite a lot of work on my action this winter to try and get more momentum going towards the batter and through the crease. It's definitely helped my red-ball cricket. I'm starting to swing the ball a bit more, but I'm not quite there yet, confidence wise. In terms of pace, I'm a little bit behind where I want to be because I haven't felt confident enough just to let it go yet.

"To start the season with my best figures after all the work I've done in the winter is a big bonus. Hopefully I can go on to bigger and better things."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.