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Title tilt a distant memory for Lancs

Posted in Domestic Cricket

Karl Brown

Karl Brown batting during champions Lancashire's season opener this morning

Steven Croft and Karl Brown could not possibly have felt further away from Taunton.

The two Lancashire batsmen, who merrily put the finishing touches to a rapid LV= County Championship-winning run chase against Somerset, were reunited this morning with the Red Rose teetering on 16 for three in their season opener against Sussex.

It was far from the ideal start to the hosts’ defence of a first championship for 77 years as the Aigburth pitch provided its customary rewards for bowlers prepared to do the hard yards.

James Anyon was the pick of the visiting attack with his second five-wicket haul in as many innings, while Steve Magoffin leant further weight to the perception of Australia’s revival in the world game.

Michael Clarke’s side continued their renaissance with a dramatic victory over West Indies in Barbados yesterday and the 32-year-old Queensland seamer offered a timely reminder of his country’s glory years.

A decade ago, Australian cricketers without a Test appearance habitually decamped to counties before running roughshod over English players’ efforts, and the uncapped Magoffin looked a class above on his Sussex debut.

Miserly barely does justice to a phenomenal opening spell of 10-7-5-1 that accounted for Brown - the first of only three Lancashire batsmen into double figures half an hour before lunch.

With his pumping long limbs recalling a prime Andy Caddick, Magoffin delighted admirers far and wide; his brother emailed BBC Radio Sussex during the afternoon session to inform them he was keeping tabs on events from Down Under.

The grind was on for the hosts as edges outweighed deliveries that were middled until captain and Wisden Cricketer of the Year Glen Chapple joined Croft in the afternoon.

September’s lusty West Country hitting was briefly recalled as Croft momentarily worried the ice cream man with a mighty six over midwicket before picking out the press tent courtesy of a majestic straight drive - fielded with the minimum of fuss.

Chapple has found himself in the middle of more Lancashire rearguards than some of his team-mates have first-class appearances, but his return catch to Anyon was one of several tame dismissals as the Red Rose wilted for 124 despite Croft’s half-century.

They have certainly been here before; twice during last season’s triumphant campaign, Chapple’s men were rattled out for below 90.

It is perhaps a perverse virtue of the reigning champions that their opponents always feel like they are in the game, encouraging positive cricket and positive results.

A draw does not appear to be on the agenda at Aigburth, where the ECB pitch inspector reprised last season’s seemingly customary tea-time visit to the press tent to offer assurances that there was nothing wrong with a helpful surface and insist that the batsmen should try a bit harder.

That they did after Chapple, Sajid Mahmood and the impressive Kyle Hogg claimed a wicket apiece in reducing Sussex to 15 for three.

As Michael Yardy and Ed Joyce effortlessly milked runs to put the visitors ahead with an unbroken century stand for the fourth wicket in the evening session, they made Taunton feel very far away.

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