Durham 166 & 185 Lancashire 183 & 169-3: Pitches panel hands points and title lifeline to Lancashire

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Lancashire had cause for a small celebration last night after an ECB pitches panel determined they could keep all 17 points gained from a two-day victory over Durham here. There had been fears that the playing strip at Stanley Park might be ruled to have been below the standard required for a first-class game.

A verdict of that nature following an enquiry concluded last night by liaison officers Philip Sharpe and Tony Pigott, along with ECB consultant Chris Wood, could have seen Lancashire docked eight points, which effectively would have put them out of contention for a County Championship in which with only two weeks left, there are still five possible winners.

However, after speaking to the umpires, as well as the captains and coaches of both sides, plus local and county groundstaff, the panel decided that no further action was necessary.

It means that Lancashire, guided past a fourth innings target of 169 by the expertise of 38-year-old Stuart Law and Indian Test batsman VVS Laxman, go joint third in the table, nine points behind the leaders and title-holders Sussex. Two matches remain for all of the top five apart from second-placed Yorkshire, who have one.

Fifth-placed Durham, 16 and a half points behind but with Sussex due at their Chester-le-Street headquarters next week, probably missed their opportunity to go second when Law, who finished unbeaten on 82, was dropped on 30 when Ben Harmison spilled a difficult chance.

Lancashire had scrambled a first-innings lead of 17 thanks to Saj Mahmood's 69-run eighth wicket stand with Luke Sutton before Ottis Gibson, one of two bowlers who profited heavily from the conditions, finished with eight for 68.

Glen Chapple then added three wickets to his career-best 7-53 from the first innings, but Durham captain Dale Benkenstein gave the Durham second innings substance, anchoring stands of 67 with Phil Mustard and 56 with Gibson.

Ultimately it was not enough, however, to defeat the experience of Laws, who defied the pain from two blows on an already damaged finger in an unbroken partnership of 125 with Laxman.