County Championship round-up: Lancashire face delicate task to keep hopes alive


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The Independent Online

Lancashire’s survival hopes are hanging by the most delicate of threads. Needing to win the relegation decider against Middlesex at Old Trafford with three more bonus points than their opponents, they are short of both runs and time if they are to keep the match alive beyond the first hour today, requiring nothing less than a win by a 19-point margin to remain in the First Division.

They are 259 for 6 in reply to Middlesex’s 214. Essentially, they need 41 runs in the first 14 overs today while losing no more than two wickets, at which point they would have six bonus points to Middlesex’s three. They would need then to win the match, of course, although if they fail to have 300 on the board at the end of the 110th over – the cut-off point for bonus points – the result becomes irrelevant and Middlesex survive.

Having scored at not much short of three runs per over so far, they ought to fulfil that minimum requirement, after which, should it happen within the 110 overs and Middlesex have claimed two more wickets, it might be necessary for the match umpires to call Lord’s should Lancashire then decide to declare.

Under the Laws, they would have to be satisfied that the declaration was being made to enhance their prospects of winning, rather than primarily to deny their opponents a bonus point. Were Lancashire to declare at eight down, Middlesex would not have the opportunity to take the ninth wicket that would almost certainly secure their survival.

Ashwell Prince, whose 76-run stand with Luis Reece for the second wicket was the bedrock of a total to which Steven Croft contributed 60, confirmed that captain Glen Chapple would have considered pulling out at 250 for 5, although Croft’s dismissal ended that line of thinking.

Warwickshire sealed second place in the division by taking full batting points against Durham at Edgbaston, where Varun Chopra and Jonathan Trott scored centuries.

The second promotion place in the Second Division remains in the balance, with both Hampshire and Essex well placed to win their matches. Essex can only pip Hampshire if they beat Worcestershire and their rivals fail to overcome Glamorgan.