Declaration hits Lancashire's survival chances

Gloucestershire 311-8 dec Lancashire 0-0
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The Independent Online

Gloucestershire 311-8 dec Lancashire 0-0

The clouds which drove off the Lancashire batsmen after just one over of their innings were nothing to the ones which overshadowed Gloucestershire's premature declaration here yesterday.

The teams entered this Championship match with relegation at stake. Lancashire have to amass three more bonus points than their visitors, as well as win, to move level in the table with Gloucestershire. Then the Red Rose county would stay in the First Division because of their superior record against Gloucestershire this season.

In calling an early end to their first innings with Lancashire one wicket away from maximum bowling points, Gloucestershire, with three batting points in the bag, made survival a far tougher prospect for Lancashire, who now have to glean maximum batting points for the loss of no more than five wickets within the statutory 130 overs in order to establish that three-point differential.

On the face of it regulation No 42, covering Extraordinary Declarations, which are aimed: "...primarily at denying the bowling side the opportunity to acquire further bonus points... but without enhancing the batting side's prospects of winning or saving the match" applied to Gloucestershire.

But the England and Wales Cricket Board had Phil Sharpe, the former England player, on the ground as match referee and pitch liaison officer and he said: "When they were 278 for 6 shortly before tea Gloucestershire sought my advice and I said that to me it looked all right. I rang Lord's and they said it would be all right."

If Lord's had thought differently, then Gloucestershire would have been charged with bringing the game into disrepute and could have been docked Championship points, which would almost certainly have had a bearing on the relegation issue.

But Mike Watkinson, the Lancashire manager, did admit later that in similar circumstances they would probably have done the same. The ethical issue also overshadowed a career-best by Lancashire's left-arm spinner Gary Keedy, who claimed the first seven wickets to fall. But the moment his team-mate Glen Chapple bowled Martyn Ball to interrupt his run, it prompted the declaration and the ensuing debate.

Keedy's 7 for 95 came from 42 of the 73 overs of spin sent down in the day. When play was eventually abandoned some 70 minutes before the scheduled close, the requisite 104 overs had already been bowled.

* The Essex opener Will Jefferson's fifth century of the season was a sideshow to the main event as Nottinghamshire claimed the Second Division title at Trent Bridge yesterday. With the home side needing one point to confirm their place at the top of the table ahead of Hampshire, they were required to take three Essex wickets after the visitors won the toss and batted. They reached their target 14 overs after lunch when Paul Franks claimed Ronnie Irani's wicket lbw for 16. Jefferson hit 167 from 252 balls with 28 fours.