Hampshire’s County Championship title quest on a knife-edge after another absorbing day’s play at Lancashire

A chaotic second day at Aigburth saw Hampshire edge ahead of Lancashire in their quest to secure a first County Championship since 1973 as wickets continued to tumble in a low-scoring tussle between two title contenders.

Wednesday, 22nd September 2021, 7:13 pm
Hampshire's Keith Barker reacts during Lancashire's first innings in Liverpool this morning. Picture: Martin Rickett/PA Wire.

The end result after six absorbing sessions was that the visitors are 160 runs ahead with three wickets in hand, writes JAMIE BOWMAN.

However, nervous eyes continue to be cast on the ongoing action at Edgbaston where both these sides need Warwickshire to slip up against Somerset.

If the Bears take full bowling points and go on to win, they will be champions. To get full bowling points, they will need to take Somerset’s final five wickets inside 33 overs tomorrow.

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Hampshire's Mohammed Abbas celebrates the wicket of Lancashire's Tom Bailey. Picture: Martin Rickett/PA Wire.

Lancashire had resumed on 25-3, chasing Hampshire’s modest total of 143, and the Red Rose’s chances were immediately dented by the loss of Josh Bohannon who was brilliantly caught one-handed at second slip by Joe Weatherley off Keith Barker for 13.

Barker was charging in at this point but it was the more subtle charms of Mohammad Abbas that struck next as nightwatchman Jack Blatherwick edged to Ian Holland at third slip to reduce Lancashire to 27-5.

Barker’s brilliance continued with Dane Villas next to go, driving straight to Liam Dawson for seven and Danny Lamb lasting just three balls before he edged one to Weatherley without scoring.

The hosts desperately needed some inspiration at 47-7 and they found it in Steven Croft and Luke Wood with the latter bludgeoning five fours and a six off just 41 balls on his way to a crucial 37.

Lancashire's Tom Bailey celebrates the wicket of Hampshire's Mason Crane during day two of the LV= Insurance County Championship Division match at Aigburth. Picture: Martin Rickett/PA Wire.

When Wood departed after nicking a Brad Wheal delivery through to Tom Alsop, he and Croft had put on 46 vital runs for the eighth wicket. And when Croft himself was dismissed skying an Abbas delivery to Dawson at mid off for 40, Lancashire were almost on par with their opponents.

Abbas’ fifth wicket ensured they fell just two runs short but even that tiny advantage looked a chasm when Hampshire lost Ian Holland to the third ball of their second innings as he edged a Tom Bailey ball to Bohannon without scoring.

Nought for one quickly became 1-2 with makeshift opener Mason Crane’s stumps spread by Bailey before the seamer claimed his third wicket when Alsop (2) nicked one to Davies for two to leave Hampshire 15-3.

Lancashire looked to be right in the game when Nick Gubbins played Balderson on for six, but skipper James Vince had other ideas as he and Dawson compiled a sixth wicket partnership of 80 after tea.

Lancashire's Tom Bailey celebrates the wicket of Tom Alsop today. Picture: Martin Rickett/PA Wire.

As the gloom began to descend the game turned again with Matt Parkinson trapping Vince in front for 69 and the tireless Bailey claiming his first five-wicket haul of the season with the dismissal of Dawson for 41.

Dawson said: ‘It was poor cricket from us at the end - we'd worked so hard to get that close to being five down at the end of the day and we lost two wickets in the space of a couple of overs.

‘It was a real shame - especially from two experienced players - but we have 160 on the board and whatever we're going to get is a bonus.

‘From then on it will be a shootout between who wants it the most.

Crowds watch on as Hampshire's Joe Weaterley bats against Lancashire at Aigburth. Picture: Martin Rickett/PA Wire.

‘There is no spin at the minute but we'll have to see how that pans out. Seam has dominated the game so far and it's a new ball wicket - hopefully our bowlers can give us one more massive push and see where we end up.

‘It's very easy to say you're concentrating on the game here but you have one eye on the game at Edgbaston.

‘Lancashire and us have to do our job here and try and win. If we do that and Warwickshire win, fair play to them - the best team will have won.’

Lancashire bowler Bailey added: ‘Getting those two wickets at the end was crucial for us. They are two key players for Hampshire and to see them walk off the pitch was good.

‘It's a very entertaining game to play in and you can't switch off for a minute. It's been a nice pitch to bowl on, although it does feel like it's flattening out which is good for us if we can get those three wickets early.

‘We know it won't be easy but if we can come and take these three wickets early....a 180 chase to win the County Championship? We know we're going to do it.

‘You can see why (Mohammad) Abbas was the number one bowler in the world - he didn't miss his length and was so good with that wobble seam.

‘It's tailor made for seamers and the quicker you bowl the easier it is to bat.’