Lancashire v Northants: County Championship Preview –
LANCASHIRE are back in action in the LV= County Championship on Thursday, in a thrilling top-of-the-table clash against runaway leaders Northamptonshire.
Trailing by 33 points in Division Two, Lancashire will see this game-in-hand as a great opportunity to strengthen their chances of promotion, despite already occupying the second promotion slot.
But even if the Red Rose County were to win, they would still have a hefty gap to close on Northants if they are to stand any chance of lifting the silverware this season.
Northants will not bow down easily though, as they themselves will look to increase their healthy lead at the top.
Despite ending with a draw against Leicestershire last week, the result hardly dented the Steelbacks’s domination in Division Two and so Lancashire will have a real fight on their hands over the four days of play.
Northants all-rounder and former Lightening player, Steven Crook, has already labelled this match as a ‘Cup final’ in an interview with BBC Radio Northampton, but will it be his old side who celebrates the victory come then end of play on Sunday.
Lancashire: Glen Chapple (Captain), Andrea Agathangelou, Steven Croft, Gareth Cross (WK), Kyle Hogg, Simon Katich, Simon Kerrigan, Stephen Parry, Ashwell Prince, Luke Procter, Luis Reece, Tom Smith, Wayne White
Northants: Alex Wakely (Captain), Kyle Coetzer, Matthew Spriegel, David Sales, Rob Keogh, Andrew Hall, James Middlebrook, David Willey, Steven Crook, David Murphy (WKT), Lee Daggett, Graeme White.
Prediction: Lancashire Win Following an impressive 98 not out against Scotland in the Yorkshire Bank 40, Lancashire’s, Ashwell Prince, will be a real threat as he hopes to keep up his superb run of form going into the County Championship match. But following Northants victory over Sussex in their last YB40 match, they too will be up for this match. Steven Crook took three wickets for 11 runs for the Steelbacks and will hope to provide something similar against his former club. It will be a tough game for both sides, but I can see Lancashire coming out on top with a narrow home victory.
LANCS opened up a 59-point-lead against top-of-the-table Northants, after a failure in the lighting system ended the first day of play at the Emirates Old Trafford.
The visitors had a disappointing start to day one, with 62 all out from just under 30 overs (29.5) and Lancashire took full advantage of their opponents lacklustre start to open up a fairly comfortable lead.
With a 33 point gap to close in Division Two of the LV=County Championship, Lancashire knew they would have to put the pressure on Northants from the start, and that’s exactly what they did.
Lancs captain Glenn Chapple led by example with a wicket in his first over, highlighting his side’s early intentions to win. Kyle Coetzer was the early casualty for Northants after just four balls with no runs to his name.
Kyle Hogg followed suit and claimed the second wicket shortly after, as David Sales left the field with just one run, as Lancashire made short work of their opponents in the opening few overs.
Hogg looked eager, claiming his second wicket in quick succession to leave the Steelback’s on 9-3.
Play was halted one hour into the match due to rain, as Northants picked up a few more runs before the players left the field to make it 18-3.
When the weather eased off it wasn’t long before Hogg had yet another wicket to his name after Gareth Cross caught Rob Keogh, and so the 21-year-old left the field on six.
Within in a few minutes Northants had gone from 21-4 to 21-5, as Chapple claimed his second wicket with James Middlebrook bowled out for eight.
With Steven Crook on for the visitors, the former Lancs all-rounder finally provided some lasting stability for the league leaders and he became their highest runner in the first innings with 16.
Whilst at the crease, Crook partnered both Andrew Hal (LBW), who picked up 10 runs, and David Willey who was caught by Tom Smith for eight, before Crook himself left the field after being bowled out by Hogg.
Mohammed Azharullah came on in Crook’s place and managed only a single run leaving Northants on 62 all out.
When Lancashire came out for their first innings, the Red Rose County instantly looked a more organised size as they went on the offensive, strongly.
Luke Procter hit an early four after his batting partner Luis Reece opened the scoring with two runs. But Procter’s impressive first bat was short-lived as he was then bowled out by Azharullah with Ashwell Prince brought on as Procter’s replacement.
Northants looked to be crumbling. something that was evident from the players’ body language, as Azharullah looked far from happy with his captain’s positioning in the slips, which cost the visitors two runs.
But the Steelback’s regrouped as Willey claimed his first wicket with an LBW against Prince who was out for six.
Lancashire still trailed by 40 points and the spirit shown by Northants seemed to have gone once more as Simon Katich took to the field to form a strong partnership with Luis Reece, as they combined to hit 19 points, making it 43- 3, when Reece was bowled out by Willey.
Andrea Agathangelo was the next batter to partner Katich and both provided the points. But Agathangelo went on 85-4 with 21 runs and was shortly followed by his partner who left the field with 30 to his name (85-5).
Gareth Cross and Hogg took their place, but neither lasted any longer. Cross went for four (LBW) and Hogg went for three after being caught by David Murphy to leave Lancs on 96-7, with a 34 point lead.
Captain Chapple wasn’t as great an inspiration in the batting than he was when bowling, as the 39-year-old was out for a duck.
Tom Smith and Stephen Parry remain on 14 and nine runs not-out respectively, going into Friday’s second day of play.
Man of the Day: Kyle Hogg – with seven wickets to his name, the 29-year-old showed some impressive form when bowling. His batting wasn’t as great with a poor three runs, but his early performance was a big help in ending Northants’ first innings.
LANCASHIRE narrowed the gap on Division Two leaders Northants to just 17 points on Friday afternoon, after a rampant display from the hosts that ended the visitors unbeaten start to the campaign.
A disappointing start for Northants on day one only got worse on day two following their failure to put a big enough gap between them and their nearest rivals, ending their hopes of a third and fourth day of play.
When play resumed on day two the hosts continued to increase their lead on the Steelbacks.
Lancs captain Glenn Chapple managed a total of four runs at the restart when he walked for LBW. Stephen Parry managed a few more with 12 runs, before he too departed, as Simon Kerrigan came on to become Tom Smith’s sixth partner of the first innings.
Smith continued as the strongest batter for the Red Rose County, ending on 35 runs not out, when Kerrigan was dismissed for six as Mohammed Azharullah claimed his fourth wicket of the first innings to make it 159 all out.
When Northants took to the crease once again they started slightly better compared to day one, managing to last five runs before they took their first casualty. Kyle Coetzer was caught by Chapple and Kyle Hogg, who was man-of-the-day on day one with seven wickets, opened up his account for day two to make it 5-1.
Coetzer’s replacement, David Sales, managed 14 runs as Chapple bowled out the 35-year-old after just 30 minutes to make it 22-2.
Then alarm bells started to echo around Old Trafford when James Middlebrook soon followed Sales off the field with no further runs (22-3).
Rob Keogh, who made six runs on Thursday, came on to partner Alex Wakely at the crease, but the misery continued for Northants as they were soon 35-4 as Keogh was bowled out by Smith.
The league leaders looked far from potential title winners with their early failings, with former Lancs all-rounder Steve Crook lasting only for four against his old teammates.
David Willey could only beat Crook by an extra run as he left for five to make it 80-7.
There was a long awaited optimism about Northants after Willey left the field, as the partnership of Andrew Hall and David Murphy lifted the visitors immensely.
Hall left for 55, the highest run total of the match, whilst Murphy left with 50. Graham White left in-between for yet another duck, as Northants were all-out for 169.
Lancashire only needed 73 runs to win when they returned for the second innings, which was fairly manageable based on the way Northants had been playing.
But the Steelback’s started well with Luke Procter caught early by Murphy for Willey’s first wicket of the day (1-1).
Ashwell Prince then came on to form a near match winning partnership with Luis Reece as they combined to make 60 runs, but Prince fell at the final hurdle so it was Simon Katich who ended play with just the one run to his name along with Reece who ended on 22 not out.
Lancashire had successfully achieved the 73 runs they needed to defeat the league leaders with a game still in hand on Northants.
As for the Steelback’s, their unbeaten run comes to end, despite still leading Division two by 17 points.
Man of the Day: Andrew Hall – Lifting Northants with his partnership with Murphy, Hall continued to be one of Northants best batters, having previously finished on 10 runs on Thursday.
Man of the Match: Kyle Hogg – Hogg’s seven wickets yesterday made short work of Northants, who were expected to do so much better, considering their league position in Division Two. But Hogg proved that league position wasn’t everything as he added a further two wickets on day two, to round off a great overall match-winning performance.
Highest Scoring Batter – Andrew Hall (55)
Highest Wickets – Hogg 9
Umpires: N.G.Cowley & R.K.Illingworth
Scorers: A.West & A.C.Kingston
By Steven Peach at Emirates Old Trafford