Where on the first day the majority of Lancashire’s batsmen had, Kamikaze style, thrown away their wickets in hurried fashion, the second afternoon saw Alex Davies’ counterattacking innings, and then Haseeb Hameed’s determined knock, help drag their side back into their match against Hampshire.
It had looked as though the game was to be a low-scoring thriller but Davies took it by the scruff of the neck, batting with the authority of a man for whom bowlers are little more than a punching bag.
When Lancashire began their second innings, 75 runs adrift of the hosts, they knew they needed to achieve parity at most one wicket down to even up the scales. Davies saw little challenge in the task.
If suggestions had arisen yesterday, of Lancashire failing to readapt after four weeks of Natwest T20 Blast, Davies – who has played none of the shortest form this season – disregarded that concept entirely, taking just 92 balls for his highly impressive 97.
He drove beautifully, pulled gorgeously and drilled the ball through midwicket to glorious effect, all done showing little sign of risk. Davies moved through the eighties with perhaps the only absurd shot of his innings, slog sweeping Ian Holland for six.
It is almost ironic that he fell, not looking to be positive, but simply defending Liam Dawson on the front foot. An inside edge looped up off his pad and James Vince – wicketkeeping after Lewis McManus suffered a blow to the finger – took a terrific diving catch.
Davies scored his maiden first-class century earlier in the season and boasts two more since, this just his second unconverted fifty of the year, yet he is the club’s leading Specsavers County Championship run scorer with 730 to his name.
Though he will certainly feel disappointed to have fallen short of three figures, he did a remarkable job of taking back the game with Hampshire looking on top. And he displayed his talent to England’s chairman of selectors, James Whitaker, to boot. A lack of England Lions experience, and a good but not exceptional run tally, will keep him out for the moment.
The man Whitaker was here to see, Haseeb Hameed, played an innings in stark contrast to that of his opening partner, but one with much more team value. It was a characteristically Hameed knock in substance, if not always in style, and without his grit Lancashire would be once again struggling.
It took him 40 minutes to get off the mark – ten longer than yesterday – and he looked a touch unconvincing even in his patience. The more he dug in, the more fluent he appeared, despite never turning that to rash stroke play, as he had on the first morning.
Hameed contributed just 17 to his stand with Davies – Lancashire’s highest opening partnership of the season – but that mattered little, nor did his rarely fluctuating scoring speed as the afternoon went on. Third ball of the 69th over, his score went past the overs bowled for the first time.
He nurdled his way through the 40s for nearly an hour, before cutting his 154th ball for a single to reach his first first-class half-century since his 59* at Mohali – 21 innings passed between then and now. This was perfectly timed, and may earn him a Test recall.
Hameed’s temperament made it all the more stunning when he slog-swept Dawson for four, his seventh boundary. He did, of course, leave the next ball outside off.
Throughout, he was assisted first by Liam Livingstone, who scored a flashy 40 before being trapped in front, then Dane Vilas – bowled by Mason Crane for a run-a-ball 20 – and Shivnarine Chanderpaul (35), with whom he put on 48 in 18 overs.
Jos Buttler replaced Chanderpaul and struck two sixes before departing, with Ryan McLaren unbeaten alongside Hameed on 77* closing with Lancashire 239 runs ahead and the game tilted perhaps slightly in their favour.
Earlier, Dawson’s highest first-class score of the season had set up Hampshire well, after Kyle Jarvis looked to have evened the game up with a destructive spell of bowling, in which he claimed the first four wickets of the day.
A pair of loose shots either side of the wicket did for both Gareth Berg and Kyle Abbott, feathering behind, with good balls removing Ian Holland (lbw) and Mason Crane (nicking off leaving). Jarvis finished with his best first-class figures in a Lancashire shirt.
Dawson, on 35* when Crane departed, batted smartly with Fidel Edwards, farming the strike and punishing what he could get hold of. He swiftly reached 50 and took the total past 200 – the only batting point of the match – before eventually being bowled around his legs for 75 by Matt Parkinson.