Lancashire took a flurry of wickets after tea on day three to set them up perfectly to wrap up a superb opening match victory over Nottinghamshire at Old Trafford, on a day where the visitors backed were backed into a corner by a superb bowling display.
If you’re the kind of cricket fan who likes to see runs being scored, boundaries being flayed and wickets tumbling at regular intervals – and let’s face it who doesn’t – then the day up until tea probably wasn’t for you. After it, the runs still didn’t flow, but Nottinghamshire batsmen came and went with alarming regularity as Lancashire charged towards a victory.
Lancashire resumed Day Four with a lead of 69 and two wickets remaining. Their innings carried on for just six overs as they took a 90-run first-innings lead.
Nottinghamshire’s innings was attritional from the off, with just one run coming off the first six overs. The opening pair of Steven Mullaney and Greg Smith batted with great fortitude, if little fluency, but when Mullaney departed the wickets began to tumble and at 99-4, with a lead of just nine, Notts were struggling.
Samit Patel and Riki Wessels threatened to steady the ship, but it was Neil Wagner, fresh from his six-wicket haul in the first innings, who claimed four wickets in 19 balls after tea to leave Notts reeling as they were dismissed for 175 – meaning Lancashire will return tomorrow chasing a modest 86 to win.
Liam Livingstone resumed Day Three on 63 and started positively, creaming Patel for an early boundary, but fell in the second over for 70 when Jake Ball trapped him lbw.
Some quick last-wicket runs from Kyle Jarvis and Simon Kerrigan pushed the score on to 332 when Patel removed Jarvis to end the Lancashire innings with a lead of 90.
Lancashire’s opening partnership of James Anderson and Jarvis set the tone, giving the Notts openers nothing to hit as Jarvis racked up five successive maidens at the start of the innings.
Just 14 runs came from the first 15 overs and Mullaney and Smith battled through to lunch with the score 32-0 from 25 overs.
The pair passed 50 for the opening stand from 188 balls but Mullaney departed soon after for 21 when Anderson underlined his international class with a beauty that sent the openers off stump cartwheeling.
Mullaney, an aggressive batsman, had batted for 130 minutes without hitting a boundary.
When Kerrigan had Smith caught by Croft at cover for 41, Lancashire were in the ascendancy. It took 47.3 overs for Notts to wipe out their first innings deficit and they were effectively 3-3 when Jarvis removed Brendan Taylor for 14 with the first ball of his second spell, reducing Notts to 93-3.
Jarvis’ bowling figures after his first ten overs highlighted the pattern of the innings as he had taken that one wicket for just eight runs.
Michael Lumb, who has struggled for County Championship form of late, playing just five games last year and averaging 21.66, never looked fluent from the moment he arrived at the crease.
Anderson had beaten him on both edges but it was Wagner who sent him back to the dressing rooms with a full, straight delivery that trapped him plumb in front for just 19.
At aea, Notts were 107-4 and in the ten overs after, added just 24 runs to the total. But Lancashire were smelling blood and Anderson returned to send Wessels on his way, lbw for 16 – meaning Notts were effectively 43-5.
Just nine runs were added in the next 6.1 overs before Patel joined the procession back to the hut. Wagner had peppered him with short stuff and the Englishman softly picked out Livingstone in the deep to gift Lancashire a sixth wicket.
Wagner now had the best figures on a Lancashire debut since 2005 and he was Lancashire’s weapon of torture to Stuart Broad. The England international has become a short-ball target worldwide since taking a blow in a Test a couple of years ago, and he fell straight into Lancashire’s trap.
With the field set all behind square, Wagner delivered a fast, snarling bouncer which Broad popped up to short-leg where he was magnificently caught by Haseeb Hameed. Notts were now 155-7 after 78.1 overs – giving them a lead of just 65.
And Wagner was soon toppling more records, claiming two wickets in two balls to claim the second-best figures ever by a Lancashire debutant. First, Ball departed as the New Zealand left-armer re-arranged his stumps, before he delivered a superb Yorker to send Jackson Bird back for a golden duck.
Anderson was back to claim his third and wrap up the innings, getting Gurney caught behind for two. Nottinghamshire had been stifled all day, scoring just 13 boundaries in their 175-run total, as they were never able to put Lancashire on the back foot.
The Red Rose will return tomorrow expectant of victory, but will know that any complacency could leave them with egg on their faces in pursuit of their 86-run target.