Mullaney bowls Lancaster to opening day win as skipper Simm reaches milestone
A marvellous bowling display by sub pro Steven Mullaney helped Lancaster get their season off to the best possible start.
The Nottinghamshire all-rounder offered a consummate display of seam bowling to help the home side defend a sub par 117 against Netherfield.
Much had been made of the light coloured Lune Road pitch before the game and skipper Ben Simm opted to wait a little longer for his 500th league scalp by batting first.
Openers Jamie Heywood and Alex Metcalfe overcame some early jitters to give the hosts a steady start before Netherfield sub pro Seth Rance found Metcalfe’s outside edge at 30 for 1.
Charlie Swarbrick joined Heywood to take Lancaster past 50 with the hosts looking to post a score pushing 200. But the partnership was brought to a end when Swarbrick was strangled down the leg side by Nathan Chambers for 12.
Pro for the day Mullaney timed the ball on the slow surface from the off but at the other end Heywood’s gritty innings was not to last. The opener let his bottom hand take over and chopped the ball on to his stumps to give Chambers his second.
Mullaney was to follow his top order teammates in getting a start but failing to go on - chipping out to mid-on for 20 to leave Lancaster shaky at 80 for 4.
Last season’s trend of middle order collapses made an unwelcome return as a flurry of lbws tore the heart out of the innings. Ian Perrieman struck a pair of boundaries before being trapped in front for 12 before Danny Welbourne shouldered arms in front of all three to give Rance his third.
Lancaster passed three figures but wickets continued to tumble. Brendan Hetherington became Mark Clarkson’s first wicket - umpire Andrew Mason judging the ball would hit leg stump and Faizan Khan wasn’t equal to a rejuvenated Clarkson as a leading edge looped back to the bowler.
Lee Sparks entered at 10 and stuck a characteristically lusty blow over square leg before spooning Clarkson to a tumbling Nathan Dixon.
Rajat Agarwal had watched the collapse from the other end but he became the final man to fall, predictably lbw, to cap off the descent to 117 all out.
The new ball had skidded onto the bat nicely in the first innings and it did so in the second.
Netherfield opener Ben Barrow was strong through the covers off Perrieman but Mullaney slowed the run rate once he found his rhythm.
The Warrington-born pro is considered one of the most canny short format performers on the county circuit and he showed all his nouse to work through the Netherfield batting order.
Ben Phillips was Mullaney’s first lbw victim as the seamer began to make the most of the wearing surface.
Perrieman got in on the act from the Atherton Road end castling an unconvincing Rance for 1.
Mullaney gave Barrow a torrid time for more than half an hour, but Lancaster’s appeals went unanswered and a chance to Heywood at slip went begging.
John Huck rebuilt with Barrow taking the visitors past 50 before all eyes turned to skipper Simm.
The off-spinner has stewed on 499 wickets over winter and initially found the going tough as Huck and Barrow looked to take him on leg-side.
But on the stroke of drinks Simm pinned Huck with a quicker ball to bring up his 500 milestone.
Huck’s departure signalled a momentum shift. Mullaney finally got his man when he caught Barrow on the crease for 37 and trapped Brad Earl for 1 soon after. Netherfield’s middle order was ripe for the taking and Mullaney took full toll removing Dixon and Liam Dugdale in quick succession. Perrieman returned to the attack and castled Dan Ingham with a quick yorker to put the hosts firmly in the box seat. Clarkson threatened briefly with a bold cover drive but a repeat effort off Perrieman only found Welbourne at long off to put Lancaster within one wicket of victory.
Number 11 Ryan Wilson succeeded where Clarkson failed by piling Perrieman onto the Tarmac - edging Netherfield past the hundred mark.
Simm brought himself back to end proceedings beating the swinging bat of Wilson to take Lancaster to a confidence boosting 10-run win. Mullaney finished with figures of 5-37 from 16 probing overs to help the hosts take maximum points.