Four-way County Championship title battle heats up as leaders Hampshire are skittled by Lancashire’s exciting young bowler George Balderson
- Hampshire, aiming for their first title since 1973, took a lead into the final round
- Warwickshire, their hosts Lancashire and Notts are all breathing down their neck
- But they failed to claim a batting bonus point as Lancs exploited a lively pitch
The four-way battle for the County Championship took another twist as leaders Hampshire were skittled on a day when 13 wickets fell at this Lancashire out-ground.
Hampshire, aiming for their first title since 1973, took a 3.5-point lead into the final round, with Warwickshire, hosts Lancashire and Notts all breathing down their necks.
But they failed to claim a single batting bonus point as Lancashire took advantage of a lively but far from treacherous surface to rush them out for 143 and increase their own chances of only a second outright Championship success in the last 87 years.
George Balderson (C) skittled Hampshire on a key day in the County Championship title race
His Lancashire team-mate, Matt Parkinson, helped wrap up the Hampshire tail at Aigburth
By the close of an eventful first day Lancashire had struggled to 25 for three and all eyes were looking anxiously towards Edgbaston, where a win for Warwickshire complete with more bonus points would leave both sides here empty-handed.
Aigburth may have been an unlikely setting for late-season drama but the portents for Lancashire were encouraging as they won six games here while the square at Old Trafford was being turned around en route to their last title 10 years ago.
They may have been without the injured Saqib Mahmood and Jimmy Anderson, rested by England after his busy series against India, but Lancashire’s young seam attack proved more than adequate against flimsy Hampshire batting.
None more so than 20-year-old George Balderson who ripped the heart out of Hampshire with a pre-lunch spell of three for three in 11 balls — Tom Alsop and Nick Gubbins falling in the same over.
Much was resting on away captain James Vince but he got out edging behind off a flashy drive
Much was resting on captain James Vince but after running out Liam Dawson backing up when his sweet straight drive was deflected on to the stumps by Tom Bailey, Vince aimed another big drive at a wide Bailey delivery and edged behind.
Matt Parkinson, introduced a little late into the Lancashire attack, showed there might be encouragement for the Hampshire slow bowlers if the match lasts into its later stages after taking the final three wickets to fall.
‘At one stage I didn’t think I’d get a bowl because our seamers were fantastic,’ said Parkinson afterwards.
‘But dismissing the tail is something I’ve not done enough of. The plan now is to try to get 200 to 250 and see where that takes us. We’re trying not to look at the other games but I was never off my phone when we batted!’
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