Mitchell frustrates Somerset on day three

A century on his Lancashire debut by New Zealander Darryl Mitchell dragged Lancashire back into contention on the third day of this LV=Insurance County Championship Division One clash with Somerset at Emirates Old Trafford.

Mitchell’s knock helped a Lancashire side, missing the injured James Anderson, close their first innings on 326 for nine, just 35 behind the visitors, who had extended that lead to 149 runs for the loss of three wickets by the close.

Although Mitchell’s effort was the undoubted highlight, Craig Overton also produced a timely reminder to the England selectors of his skills with four for 52, while Mitchell’s fellow Kiwi, Matt Henry, took four for 73 on a sun-drenched day in Manchester.

Earlier, Lancashire had got off to the worst possible start when nightwatchman Will Williams was out first ball of the day for 0, edging Overton behind to Steve Davies.

72 for three quickly became 82 for four when Steven Croft was strangled down the leg side off Overton for seven, bringing Mitchell to the crease for his first appearance for the Red Rose.

The New Zealander kept George Balderson company while he reached his sixth First Class 50 and then steadily began to build the first of three partnerships that would frustrate the Somerset bowlers for long periods of the afternoon.

When Overton returned just before lunch to account for Balderson, caught behind for 71, the score was 159 for five with plenty of work still to do and when Dane Vilas departed soon after lunch for 15, lbw to Henry, the innings was in serious jeopardy of collapse.

However, another Mitchell-inspired rebuild followed, with wicketkeeper George Bell showing plenty of application in a partnership of 57 for the sixth wicket, before Overton claimed him with the new ball edging to second slip for 38.

Again Mitchell was forced to stand firm and now it was Tom Hartley’s turn to offer support to his senior partner as the pair began to whittle down Somerset’s lead in the run up to tea.

After the interval they both came out swinging with Mitchell taking 14 off one Kasey Aldridge over before the New Zealander brought up his century to become just the ninth Lancashire batter to score a ton on his first appearance for the club and the second to combine it with the taking of three wickets.

Although the partnership ended soon after when Hartley holed out off Henry to Abell at deep square leg after making an invaluable 47, there was a feeling of job done for Lancashire when Mitchell finally departed for 105 to close the innings within touching distance of Somerset.

Davies’ dismissal early in the second innings for nine, after he played on to Williams, raised Lancashire hopes, but Abell and Tom Lammonby batted sensibly for the majority of the evening before Hartley’s wicket of Abell, who was bowled around his legs reverse sweeping for 48, and Saqib Mahmood’s of George Bartlett, bowled for 12, gave Lancashire some renewed vigour as the day ended.

At the close of play on day three, Craig Overton said: “It’s been a frustrating start to the season, so it was nice to finally contribute and get a few wickets. I bowled better than I have been. I’ve felt I’ve lacked rhythm most of the time and the knee niggles have been holding me back but that’s feeling good at the minute and we’re managing it pretty well. I felt good today.

“Matt Henry is a good bowler isn’t he? He just plugs away at a good speed with a little bit of movement each way. He’s a world class international bowler and it’s nice to have him in our side and add to the stock of fast bowlers we’ve got.

“I think we’re in a good position going into tomorrow. We’re holding all the cards and can make the decision about what we want to do.

“We would have liked two new cherries at them but we’re not going to get that and it’ll be tough to bowl them out in 50 overs. We’ll see how tomorrow morning goes. We obviously don’t want to go too hard and lose three or four quick wickets.”