James Vince gives Hampshire a real shot at the County Championship title with lead of 160 over Lancashire after 14 wickets tumble on day two in thrilling finale to the season
- James Vince hit crucial 69 to establish a 160-run lead for Hampshire on day two
- England batsman was the first to tame the lively pitch at Aigburth in Liverpool
- Lancashire were bowled out for 141, a first innings deficit of two runs
- But Hampshire were then reduced to 78 for five before Vince steadied things
- Both remain in the hunt for the title in thrilling County Championship climax
- Warwickshire remain in contention after brilliance from Danny Briggs
James Vince fulfilled one ambition that seemed beyond him when he made his first England hundred earlier this summer.
On Wednesday, he took a big step towards another with a potentially Championship deciding contribution for Hampshire.
Vince became the first batter to properly tame the lively Aigburth pitch on another compelling, topsy-turvy day in Liverpool that saw Hampshire and Lancashire vie for pole position in the race for the win that could earn each the title.
James Vince made a potentially title-winning knock of 69 for Hampshire against Lancashire
Lancashire’s Tom Bailey celebrates a wicket but Hampshire have a 160-run lead after day two
One eye here remains on Edgbaston where, thanks to Hampshire old boy Danny Briggs, Warwickshire will take the title by the barest of margins if they take full bowling points and then defeat Somerset.
But, if Somerset can earn a draw, what remains the most important prize in domestic cricket will go to whoever comes out on top in this eventful low-scoring contest at the most charming of out-grounds.
Vince ensured Hampshire are just about favourites going into the third day to clinch what would be only their third Championship title and first since 1973 with batting on a higher plane to anyone else here.
He may still regularly flirt with disaster outside off-stump – and gained a life on 18 when Danny Lamb spilled a difficult caught and bowled chance – but Vince stuck just the right tempo in hitting 69 in Hampshire’s 158 for seven to earn a lead of 160.
Bailey celebrates taking the wicket of Ian Holland as both teams remain in the title picture
It not only rescued his side from the depths of 78 for five but ensured Lancashire will have to make the highest score of the match on a club surface where the new ball has proved near unplayable but where scoring becomes easier the longer the day goes on.
Only when Matt Parkinson gained a late lbw decision from umpire Peter Hartley with Vince firmly on the front foot and then Tom Bailey found a way through Liam Dawson did Lancashire give themselves hope for what will be a tense run chase today.
Hampshire had earlier seemed in complete control when Lancashire crashed to 47 for seven in reply to 143, the gliding skill of Mohammad Abbas and bustling strength of Lancastrian Keith Barker proving a potent seam combination.
Mason Crane of Hampshire is bowled by Bailey but Vince led the fightback from early wickets
But Steven Croft, dropped by Vince on six, Luke Wood and Bailey all took advantage of easing conditions – local sage David Lloyd says it has always been harder to bat at Liverpool in the morning when the Mersey tide is in – to drag Lancashire to within two runs of parity.
Wickets again tumbled quickly when Hampshire batted for a second time – Bailey taking four of the five to fall cheaply – but Hampshire captain Vince, who made that England ODI century as a late call-up against Pakistan, added 80 with Dawson for the sixth wicket.
It could yet prove decisive in what has become a thrilling climax to the Championship season.
The picturesque Aigburth ground in Liverpool attracted plenty of spectators on Wednesday