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Blackwell stars in season opener

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Ian Blackwell’s unbeaten century lit up an even opening day of the Champion County clash between Lancashire and MCC.

Durham’s Blackwell struck 16 fours in a fine 103 not out, but the Red Rose still managed to dismiss MCC, who elected to bat first, for just 265.

Simon Kerrigan, so impressive last season as Lancashire won the title outright for the first time in 77 years, picked up where he left off with 4-65, while Glen Chapple and Sajid Mahmood chipped in with two wickets apiece.

In reply, the county champions were 38 for two as openers Paul Horton and Stephen Moore fell to complete an enthralling day in the United Arab Emirates.

At the close, Blackwell said: "We lost four quick wickets so to get 260-odd was a good effort.

"Lancashire bowled pretty well in the twilight period as well, taking a few quick wickets after tea. Hopefully we can restrict them to less than us and if we do that then we've done okay.

"If we can remove the nightwatchman early we'll be pleased but it could be a tough first session in 37-degree heat so we've got to dig in."

Ian Blackwell

Ian Blackwell starred on the opening day of the Champion County clash with 103 not out and a wicket in the United Arab Emirates

Lancashire skipper Chapple was quickly into his stride, finding Gareth Rees’ edge in his second over, Gareth Cross taking the catch.

Stephen Peters looked in fine fettle, though, and played a string of impressive shots despite seeing skipper Mark Ramprakash bowled by Kerrigan.

Peters’ touch was best illustrated by three off-side boundaries coming off a Luke Procter over, though it did not last long as Kerrigan struck again.

Having been lured into a drive, the opener edged to Tom Smith, who bowled Hamish Marshall for 18 with an in-dipper in the next over, at gully for 32.

Blackwell and Moeen Ali rebuilt impressively, with the former offering an antidote to spin twins Kerrigan and Gary Keedy.

But, after working hard to make 33, Moeen was trapped leg before shouldering arms to Chapple. Niall O’Brien impressed in hitting 28, but fell to Mahmood.

At that stage, MCC were 225 for six and they could only add a further 40 runs before being bowled out.

Steven Croft got in on the act by having Lewis Gregory caught behind and, after Kerrigan added Gareth Batty and Rana Naved-ul-Hasan to his list of scalps, Mahmood bowled Alan Richardson to wrap things up.

In between the wickets falling, Blackwell brought up a richly-deserved hundred with a cover-driven four off Mahmood.

Lancashire then lost Horton for nine as he edged Rana behind, O’Brien taking the catch, before Blackwell capped a fine day by trapping Moore in front.

Nightwatchman Keedy and Karl Brown will resume on four and 12 respectively tomorrow.

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