James Anderson’s five-wicket haul was the highlight of a topsy-turvy opening day between Lancashire and Worcestershire at Old Trafford.
Returning to the side after injury, Anderson was at his brilliant best helping reduce Worcestershire to 38-7.
The 36-year-old was ably assisted by Graham Onions, as the pair tormented their fellow promotion hopefuls in a torrid first session.
Wayne Parnell’s half-century did at least keep Joe Leach’s side in the game, and the all-rounder also starred with the ball, taking three wickets, as Lancashire closed on 88-5, still trailing by 84 runs.
Worcestershire turned down the opportunity to put the Red Rose into bat, and it was a decision they were soon regretting as their day got off to a horrid start.
Onions was the first to strike, inducing an edge from Daryl Mitchell to Keaton Jennings from just the 10th ball of proceedings, before trapping fellow opener Tom Fell LBW for one.
Anderson then got in on the act, bowling George Rhodes as Worcestershire slumped to 6-3. The England international next removed Riki Wessels and Callum Ferguson, both LBW, leaving the Division Two leaders in a perilous position midway through the morning session.
Things did not get any better as Onions bowled Ross Whiteley and Anderson had Ed Barnard caught at slip by Liam Livingstone, a wicket which left the Pears reeling and already staring down the barrel of defeat.
However, their lower order did show some fight to add some respectability to the score.
Ben Cox and Parnell added 52 for the eighth wicket until Cox edged a Richard Gleeson delivery behind for 32. Parnell continued to press on and, aided by Leach, started to build up the Worcestershire total. Leach was the aggressor as he looked to hit his side team out of trouble, a run-a-ball 36 included four boundaries off one Gleeson over.
The Worcestershire captain would eventually become Anderson’s fifth victim, bringing up the England legends 46th career five-wicket haul in first-class cricket.
Parnell was the final man to fall, giving Tom Bailey his first wicket, but not before he had registered a 108-ball half-century. He finished on 63 as Worcestershire were bowled out for 172.
It was a lot less than they would have been hoping for at the start of play, but at least their hopes of winning the contest were still alive.
And their revival continued early in the Lancashire innings, Fell taking a fabulous catch to remove Jennings off Leach with just 10 runs on the board. It was a wicket that brought Jake Lehmann to the crease, the Australian replacing Joe Burns as Lancashire’s overseas player after his compatriot had to return home for personal reasons.
He was unable to make any real impact, falling to Parnell with Lancashire in real danger of letting their days work go to waste at 21-2. Haseeb Hameed was still there, and looking in good touch, but just as it looked he was settling in for a big innings, he was plumb LBW to a Charlie Morris delivery that just did enough to unsettle the 22-year-old.
The scalp opened the door for Worcestershire but it was slammed firmly shut by Rob Jones and Livingstone for much of the rest of the day. Though there was another twist before the close as Jones, attempting to cut a Parnell delivery, was caught at the second attempt by Mitchell at slip.
And then Anderson, batting as a nightwatchman, was out to the final ball of the day, LBW to Parnell. That was the South African’s third scalp, and one which leaves the match delicately poised heading into day two.