Given their team's feeble surrender to Worcestershire last week, Lancashire supporters must have feared the worst again yesterday when the title challengers crumpled to 125 for 5 against Hampshire at Aigburth. Cometh the hour, though, cometh a potentially crucial middle-order revival.
Tom Smith, the Liverpool-born all-rounder, had reached 20 just once in his previous nine championship innings but it was he who prompted a fightback that hurt Hampshire's chances of avoiding relegation while keeping Lancashire in the thick of a championship battle with Durham and Warwickshire.
Smith's 98-ball knock of 63 nourished the Red Rose to such an extent that Glen Chapple and Kyle Hogg were later able to blossom to spectacular effect with an eighth-wicket stand which was worth 99 (in 18 overs) when bad light halted play. By then, Lancashire had recovered to 337 for 7 – on course for a full hand of five batting points – with captain Chapple 24 runs short of a century.
Come close of business last night, Lancashire were a point behind second-placed Warwickshire and seven short of leaders Durham, who are unemployed in this round of matches.
Further down the table, Worcestershire and Sussex – fighting to keep clear of the trap door into the Second Division – just about shared honours at New Road, with Ben Brown's half-century guiding the visitors to 289 for 8 As for who is coming up, Surrey's blind- side charge looked to be stalling when they slipped to 94 for 5 at Chelmsford against Essex, but Chris Jordan's 71 saw them to an apparently healthy 315 all out.