|Ground:||Old Trafford, Manchester|
|Scorecard:||Lancashire v Worcestershire|
|Event:||LV County Championship 2012|
DateLine: 20th July 2012
Lancashire v Worcestershire, Day 3, at Old Trafford
Result: Worcestershire (291 and 139) beat Lancashire (162 and 63) by 205 runs.
Lancashire look set to achieve the greatest fall from grace of a county champion since that of Yorkshire in 2002 after their ignominious defeat at the hands of a fairly weak Worcestershire team. Twenty wickets fell on the third day of the match at Old Trafford, a day that many of the weather forecasters predicted would be rainy. Most of them again fell to the spinners, a welcome change from the usual in modern cricket, but a phenomenon that may well attract the attention of the pitch inspectors. The match-winners for the visitors were Ben Scott, with his first-innings century, and Moeen Ali, who took twelve cheap wickets.
Despite the dismal weather forecast (whichever one you looked at), play started on time for a change at Old Trafford, with Worcestershire, after leading by 129 on the first innings, resuming at 9 without loss second time round. Daryl Mitchell was the more aggressive of the two batsmen, although he had the lion’s share of the bowling, but after a brisk 23 he flicked at a leg ball from Glen Chapple and was caught by the keeper down the leg side; 36 for one. Phil Hughes seemed to miss the company of his partner, as only three balls later he popped a simple bat-pad catch off Simon Kerrigan and joined Mitchell in the pavilion for 12.
Kerrigan certainly seemed to enjoy the pitch, getting lift and turn, one delivery almost taking off the wicketkeeper Gareth Cross’s head. Moeen Ali struggled for 5 runs before edging a low catch off Kerrigan to slip. It seemed Worcestershire had not learned the lessons from Lancashire’s batsmen: bold play is more likely to succeed than fearful defence. James Cameron was another who spent an uncomfortable 19 balls at the crease before edging a ball from Steven Croft to slip via the keeper’s body, and at this stage the score was 61 for four.
Matt Pardoe was next to go, lbw to Croft for 1, but Gareth Andrew looked more likely to take the bull by the horns. He showed a refreshing positive outlook, taking the fight to the bowlers, aided by Vikram Solanki, still there at the other end, the only batsman apparently good enough to make runs by orthodox methods. Andrew made 29 off 41 balls before holing out to long-off, off Croft, after a partnership of 47 runs that had regained the initiative for his team; it was a praiseworthy effort worthy of a fifty. Ben Scott came in, but did not play with the confidence of his first innings; however, he survived until lunch, when the score was 118 for six (Solanki 39).
Immediately after lunch Scott, still without scoring, wafted a rather soft catch to gully off Kerrigan, while Shaaiq Chowdhry, trying to be aggressive, skied a catch off Croft for 6. The batsmen crossed, and immediately Solanki’s long vigil came to an end, just after he had reached 50. He had played predominantly off the front foot, but now he played back fatally, as the ball kept low and he was given out lbw. He had faced 123 balls and hit four fours. Richardson saved the hat trick, but it was not long before he was well caught at extra cover for 4, off Croft once more, to close the innings, Richard Jones left unbeaten without scoring.
The total was 139, which left Lancashire with an improbable 269 to win. Solanki, with technical expertise and caution, and Andrew, with boldness, were the two heroes of the innings. Kerrigan took three wickets for 55 and Croft, who had the more good fortune but also bowled very well, took six for 41; he was the third spin bowler within twenty-four hours to return the best figures of his career.
Lancashire were immediately under the cosh, losing Paul Horton, lbw to Richardson, with the second ball of the innings. The same bowler also removed Steven Moore for 9, jabbing a catch to gully; Lancashire were 13 for two and the spinners hadn’t even come on yet. But Moeen Ali came on for the eighth over, and Lancashire’s doom was sealed – if they continued to bat in the same manner as they had done in the past twenty-four hours.
They did. Karl Brown (a painful 0) turned Ali’s third ball into the hands of leg slip. Croft briefly showed some spirit, but was caught at the wicket off Ali for 8; 21 for four. Ashwell Prince in this match has looked anything but a Test batsman, and he was caught at the wicket, again off Ali, for a single run off 15 balls; 22 for five. Cross and Smith put on 10 together, in the context of the innings a major stand, until the latter feebly edged to the keeper, giving Ali his tenth wicket of the match. Kyle Hogg, promoted, came in next, but had shown none of the spirit he had displayed in the first innings by the time his team crawled in for tea at 42 for six.
After tea Cross briefly showed spirit, attacking the spinners, but eventually falling to a catch in the deep for 20; he was destined to be the only batsman of the innings to reach double figures. Chapple hit Ali for six, but this was about the only whimper that remained to be given on behalf of the sad remains of the triumphant team of 2011. The total of 63 was Lancashire’s lowest at Old Trafford since 1963. Ali took six wickets for 29, giving him the flattering match figures of twenty wickets for 96 runs – not a bad return for a bowler with a career bowling average of around 50.