Lancashire 137-8 Durham 166: Points cut threat to Lancashire over 'unfit' pitch

Click to follow
The Independent Online

A couple of extraordinary things happened here in Blackpool yesterday. Firstly, the sun blazed in a cloudless sky, producing the kind of day for which the long-faced proprietors of this town's B&Bs must have given up hope. Secondly, a ground customarily beloved by batsmen took a shine to the bowlers.

So much so that ECB pitch liaison officers Philip Sharpe, who was present to see 18 wickets fall in the day, and Tony Pigott will conduct an inquiry today to determine whether Lancashire should be penalised for preparing an unfit surface. A verdict of "poor" would trigger a deduction of eight points, which would surely deal their title hopes a fatal blow.

Variable bounce was the most telling factor, with Glen Chapple and the redoubtable Ottis Gibson the bowlers wearing the broadest grins, although both also produced appreciable swing.

Chapple, the veteran Lancashire seamer, chalked up a career-best 7 for 53 as Durham collapsed from 91-1 at lunch to 166 all out. Gibson, who took 10 wickets in an innings against Hampshire in July, finished with another six to take his season's tally in first class games to 65. Lancashire closed eight down, still 29 in arrears.

Any damage to Lancashire's Championship prospects would only enhance Durham's. The Friends Provident Trophy winners, on the verge of promotion in the Pro40 League, have their sights on an historic treble. A win here could set up next week's mouthwatering clash with defending champions Sussex at Chester-le-Street as effectively the championship decider.

Before lunch and after tea yesterday they were well on course. But the afternoon seemed to belong to a different match, Chapple claiming his first three wickets with balls edged on to the stumps, the next four to catches by wicketkeeper or slips as batsmen struggled with the unpredictable surface.

Durham might have felt sorry for themselves had Gibson not exploited the conditions with equal effectiveness as only Luke Sutton's unbeaten 51 kept Lancashire in the hunt.