Chapple leads Lancashire revival
Glen Chapple led a thrilling assault after tea to re-ignite Lancashire’s LV= County Championship title hopes on day one of their match against Hampshire at Aigburth.
After completing an unenviable clean sweep of losing every home championship toss this season, the Red Rose were asked to bat by a Hampshire side 19 points from safety at the foot of Division One but unbeaten in six matches.
By contrast, title-chasing Lancashire - 10 points behind leaders Durham but with a game in hand at the start of play - returned to Liverpool on the back of a 10-wicket drubbing inside five sessions at Worcestershire, and their brittle top order was once again exposed as they slipped to 125 for five after lunch.
Tom Smith started the rebuilding job with his fourth first-class half-century of the season before Chapple motored to an unbeaten 76 off 84 balls, containing nine fours and a six - his highest championship score since May 2009.
Kyle Hogg had contributed a similarly brisk 47 not out when bad light and eventual drizzle forced a premature close at 337 for seven.
Having been dismissed for under 200 in seven of their past 12 innings, Lancashire’s collection of three vital batting bonus points, with two more still possible tomorrow, comes as a timely boost in their pursuit of a first outright title since 1934.
Despite some fairly pedestrian bowling on a pitch offering encouragement for seamers, Hampshire reduced their opponents to 41 for two as Chris Wood had Stephen Moore caught at the wicket and Karl Brown was run out following a ghastly mix-up with Paul Horton.
Opener Horton continued unflustered and was unbeaten on 33 as the home side moved to 78 without further loss at lunch, after which Luke Procter - recalled in place of the out-of-form Mark Chilton - upped the scoring rate to take the partnership past 50.
However, he looked on from the other end as Sean Ervine stunned Lancashire with took two wickets in as many balls to make it 98 for four.
Horton was strangled down the leg side for 35, before Steven Croft suffered a second first-ball duck in three innings when he shouldered arms and deflected a lifting delivery on to his stumps.
James Tomlinson returned at the River End to account for Procter five short of his half-century, bowled via an inside edge onto pad while trying to work the ball to square-leg.
Wicketkeeper Gareth Cross arrived at the crease and cut a sumptuous pair of early fours.
Smith settled himself, after struggling under an early barrage from Ervine, with some eye-catching sweeps and drives off Danny Briggs’ left-arm spin, and the duo soon had a swashbuckling 50 partnership off 71 balls.
Yet, on 34, Cross became the latest Lancashire batsman to depart when well set, fencing at Wood to give Hampshire wicketkeeper Michael Bates his third catch of the innings.
Smith and Chapple saw their team to tea and a pair of authoritative drives for four from the former in the first over after the resumption brought up 200.
The two boundaries came off Wood and a nicely worked three off the same bowler brought up Smith’s fifty off 83 balls.
Chapple then weighed in with two fours and a hooked six over deep backward square-leg before the over was out, meaning Wood’s 12-ball post-tea stint cost 25.
Ervine replaced his colleague at the River End but when he dropped short and Smith flayed him through point a run-a-ball half-century stand was reached.
The attacking approach would prove to be Smith’s downfall as he top-edged a hook off Ervine to Dimitri Mascarenhas at long-leg, having made 63.
Nevertheless, Chapple continued to plunder runs merrily on both sides of the wicket and found a willing ally in Hogg, who laced a quartet of fours in moving to 25 off 19 balls.
Michael Carberry’s occasional slow bowling in tandem with Briggs briefly put the brakes on, but when Tomlinson returned at the Pavilion End Chapple cut to the fence and brought up his half-century to warm applause.