Fifteen wickets fell on day one as Worcestershire seized control of their Specsavers County Championship clash against Lancashire at Southport.
Lancashire’s batting left them in a hole after their bowlers delivered again, with Tom Bailey starring by taking four for 41 as Worcestershire were bowled out for what appeared a below-par 222.
But by the close, that total was looking much healthier as Josh Tongue claimed three wickets and instigated a run out and Worcestershire had the hosts 95 for five at the close of play.
Lancashire began the match bottom of Division One, six points adrift of Worcestershire having played a game more, making this a crucial clash in the battle for survival.
Eyebrows were raised when Worcestershire chose to bat under cloudy skies and Lancashire made regular breakthroughs – the Pears’ highest partnership was just 41 – as their seamers exploited a little bit of movement from the Southport pitch.
Toby Lester got the ball rolling with the opening wicket on his first Championship outing of the season. When Jordan Clark had Joe Clarke caught behind on the stroke of lunch Worcestershire had lost four wickets for 98, including a poor run out of Alex Milton for a duck.
Bailey extended his lead at the top of the Division One wicket-taker standings with his four, three of which came after lunch.
Brett D’Oliveira was his prize scalp. The Worcestershire captain batted very nicely to make 65, an innings which featured nine fours and was the right balance of patience and positivity to take his side past 150.
But Bailey returned to take him and Wayne Parnell in quick succession – the latter with a superb delivery that nipped away to take the left-handers off-stump.
Lancashire wrapped up the innings shortly after tea, to dismiss Worcestershire for 222 and place themselves in the ascendancy.
But batting has been where Lancashire have come up short this season – a view supported by the fact the Red Rose have the division’s two leading wicket-takers.
It was the case again as Tongue had Haseeb Hameed caught in the slips for a first-ball duck and, five balls later, sent Rob Jones on his way without scoring. Lancashire were two down with just four on the board.
Steven Croft briefly threatened a counter-punch but fell to Parnell for 14. That role fell to Alex Davies and Dane Vilas, who shared an excellent fifty partnership brought up from just 55 balls.
The life they had injected into Lancashire’s innings was extinguished in the space of another Tongue over. Vilas’ departure was unlucky, Davies drilling a straight drive which Tongue deflected onto the stumps to run the South African out at the non-strikers end for 18.
And two balls later he trapped Davies for 47, leaving Lancashire 85 for five and in heaps of trouble.