Somerset slump against revitalised Mahmood

Somerset 268 Lancashire 70-0
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The Independent Online

There is a suspicion that Lancashire might not have the depth to be competitive all season but there is nothing wrong with their form so far. Having beaten Sussex by an innings in their first match, they fought back to curtail Somerset's ambitions of a substantial total here. What's more, they did so despite the late withdrawal of their captain and talisman, Glen Chapple.

The old warhorse pulled out after feeling a twinge behind a knee, which can happen when you are 37. It was a blow to Lancashire because he had already underlined his continuing importance to their cause with nine wickets in the Sussex win.

When a long absence threatens, you wonder how Lancashire will cope. So it can only be for the betterment of their self-belief that they were able to clip Somerset's wings after last season's triple runners-up reached 129 for 2 at lunch on the opening day.

A half-century from Stephen Moore, who had a life on 13 when he edged Charl Willoughby hard and second slip appeared to take evasive action, helped Lancashire to 70 without loss in reply.

Marcus Trescothick's decision to bat first looked reasonable enough and while he and opening partner Arul Suppiah were early casualties you would not have bet against Nick Compton and James Hildreth turning their morning half-centuries into a position of strength in the afternoon.

But, spurred on when Hildreth stumbled out of his ground and allowed Gareth Cross a gift stumping four balls after the first interval, Lancashire battled back to take six wickets in the second session and did not let Somerset off the hook after tea.

It might be pointed out that the visitors' confidence could be a little suspect, given their calamitous opening defeat against Warwickshire. But that would be doing Lancashire's bowlers a disservice. The pick was undoubtedly Saj Mahmood, whose inconsistent career has brought frustration for his admirers but can challenge the best opponents when everything clicks. The bounce was perfect for his length and was a factor in seeing off both openers with the help of busy wicketkeeper Cross, much as Suppiah was clearly furious at the manner of his dismissal after he was adjudged to have gloved a catch down the leg side.

Gary Keedy, still the cleverest left-arm spinner on the circuit, did his bit, limiting Craig Kieswetter to 53 by luring the Somerset wicketkeeper into an injudicious charge, while the all-rounder Tom Smith bowled with control and Oliver Newby, who had struggled in the morning, returned to have Compton caught at backward point.

The unluckiest bowler was the Sri Lankan, Farveez Maharoof, Lancashire's newest overseas player, who made his debut in place of Chapple, asked questions in most of his 11 overs but was wicketless, although he did take a fine catch, running backwards, to give Newby his second wicket.