Lancashire 333-7 v Hampshire: Lamb dents Lancashire title hopes

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The Independent Online

Greg Lamb cannot be faulted for his timing. His contract with Hampshire expires in four days time and there is no guarantee that it will be renewed.

Or at least there was no guarantee until last Sunday when his all-round effort (a fifty and four wickets) earned his county a place in the Pro40 play-off against Glamorgan here on Sunday.

Yesterday Lamb reinforced the weekend's performance when he took two wickets in title-chasing Lancashire's line-up.

Having won the toss and opted to bat on a pitch that offered occasional low bounce, Lancashire made a sound start with openers Mark Chilton and Iain Sutcliffe putting together a sound 63-run platform.

Mal Loye and Stuart Law duly built on that. They were going so well at one stage that they both looked set to end the season with centuries. Their application was faultless, their patience eternal as they steadily steered Lancashire towards the necessary maximum batting points.

The pair of them had added 99 in 32 overs for the third wicket when disaster, or rather Lamb struck. Loye was bowled through the gate to give Lamb his first Championship wicket of the season.

It ended a solid innings of almost two and a half hours, during which Loye hit 10 boundaries off 138 balls, but Law was still there, and remained so for a further 17 overs, before Lamb struck again.

The Australian batsman chose to clip a delivery, but did not really get hold of it and the ball flew tamely to Sean Ervine at short midwicket for the softest of catches. Despite a first-class average of 25, Lamb's figures for Hampshire coming into this match were a far less impressive 57.66.

These latest victims improved that somewhat and will have lifted the Zimbabwe-born all-rounder's confidence, while undermining Lancashire's.

It certainly sent a frisson through the Lancashire faithful, especially those keeping an eye on progress being made by their title rivals Sussex at Trent Bridge, but Glen Chapple and Luke Sutton took up the cudgels in exemplary fashion and eased Lancashire to a third batting bonus point.

After adding 63 runs in 19 overs Chapple, who had lofted Lamb back over his head for the first six of the innings, fell victim to the new ball when James Bruce got one to nip back and, with the suspicion of an inside edge, the Lancashire man lost his middle stump.

Then came more trouble when Dominic Cork appeared to play down the wrong line to have his off stump knocked back by Dimitri Mascarenhas. Suddenly a fourth batting point, let alone the maximum five, no longer looks a formality.