Lancashire 357 & 121-7 Hampshire 288: Lancashire victory hopes thwarted as Tahir casts spell

A match in which Lancashire once appeared in complete control is poised for a gripping conclusion after Hampshire's debutant leg-spinner bowled his side back into contention with another clutch of wickets on a deteriorating pitch.

The much-travelled Imran Tahir, making his first Championship appearance for his 13th first-class club in a three-country career, supplemented his five-wicket haul from Lancashire's first innings with four more scalps as the home side scratched their way to 121-7 and an overall lead of 190.

The Pakistan A player, signed only last week as Hampshire continue to seek a replacement for Shane Warne, bamboozled Lancashire in a stint broken only to change ends to finish the day on 4-48 from 19 overs.

It completed a transformation for the visitors, who had been three down and 183 behind overnight and lost three more wickets before they averted the follow-on, veteran Dominic Cork – set to be released at the end of the season – showing there is life in him yet by removing Michael Brown for 76 and then Nic Pothas in a spell of 2-3 in seven overs at the Statham End.

Chris Benham – 11 short of a maiden first-class century – disappointed himself by edging a loose drive to slip against Gary Keedy and Hampshire were in- debted to their captain, Dimitri Mascarenhas, whose 49 was the bedrock as the last three wickets put on 80.

How valuable those runs looked as Lancashire went two down for 16. Lou Vincent edged a rising ball from David Balcombe, Iain Sutcliffe was bowled by a Chris Tremlett inswinger and only then did Tahir set to work.

The 29-year-old had Stuart Law caught at forward short-leg, bowled Paul Horton off a bottom edge and held a return catch off a leading edge to dismiss Francois du Plessis. Steven Croft misjudged Balcombe's reverse swing before Tahir struck again, hurrying one through to bowl Glenn Chapple.

l In Division Two, five wickets in 34 balls from Gareth Batty fired Worcestershire to a 10-wicket win over promotion rivals Middlesex at Lord's. The inspired spell of bowling from the former England spinner, who took five for 33 as Middlesex were bowled out for 164, left the visitors to score 104 for victory. Which they duly did in a mere 17 overs.

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