County round-up: Bold Smith leads Lancashire fightback

 

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.

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