JAMES Cameron fired Worcestershire into a useful first-innings lead as 16 wickets tumbled on the opening day of their LV= County Championship Division One clash with title-chasing Lancashire.
The Zimbabwean-born opener grafted his way to a fine half-century for the New Road side, after they had bowled the visitors out for 161, before going on to get a vital batting point in their bid for survival.
But, on a pitch that offered assistance to both bowling attacks, Worcestershire themselves were in danger of handing Lancashire a lead as they slumped to 77-5.
Steve Rhodes’ side must have thought it was going to be their day on a dramatic morning when the County, fighting for their lives in the top-flight, had Lancashire 85-8.
While Alan Richardson and Kemar Roach, in his first game at New Road, picked up five wickets between them, it was Richard Jones and Gareth Andrew who did the most damage.
The County’s change bowlers both had opportunities of hat-tricks and, although they missed out, all-rounder Andrew picked up three wickets in four balls.
Jones finished with first-innings figures of 2-8 from his six overs, while Sajid Mahmood (28) and Kyle Hogg (46) gave Lancashire hope as they went from 85-8 to 161 all out.
Those extra runs looked like they were going to be crucial as Worcestershire limped to 77-5 at tea.
With pitch liaison officer Jack Birkenshaw happy with the New Road surface, a combination of good bowling and poor batting led to the downfall of most batsmen.
But it needed Cameron, who only returned to the side last week in favour of out-of-form Matt Pardoe after being dropped for four matches, to remain calm.
The 25-year-old reached stumps on a season’s best 87 not out having shared an unbeaten 90-run seventh wicket stand with Ben Scott (45no) to help the County close on 209-6 and a vital lead of 48 runs.
Cameron said: “I think this lead is crucial. We have got to bat last on the pitch and, from what we saw on the opening day, with a little bit of uneven bounce, I presume it will only get worse.
“The further ahead we can get the better. It’s vital we got that batting point too — we just have to keep going as long as we can.”