Life looks rosy as Lancashire edge out their arch rivals
Sunday 24 July 2011
A Roses match that was seldom less than compelling ended with a narrow victory for Lancashire that will infuse Glen Chapple's players with excitement as winning the Championship begins to look a possibility.
The title is discussed in that way most years at Old Trafford, but it is 77 years since a Red Rose team won it, apart from in 1950 when it was shared with Surrey.
Yet with seven wins from 10 matches, a record unmatched at the corresponding point in any season in the current Champion-ship format, there are reasons to argue that, with leaders Durham unlikely to do better than draw with Somerset at Taunton, Lancashire might be favourites.
They have played one fewer match and Durham's lead is down to five points. A victory over Nottinghamshire at Southport next week, in their match in hand, would give Lancashire the advantage, and should they follow it up with a win over Warwickshire, the other unexpected contender, at Liverpool the following week, the title might be seen as theirs to lose.
Yesterday's victory showed they can keep their nerve, which is another point in their favour. Yorkshire resumed on 136 for 6, still needing 148 to win, but if the last innings was to follow the pattern of the second and third, Lancashire's task would be less straightforward than it looked.
In the end Yorkshire went close enough to be disappointed not to have won after Adil Rashid and Ajmal Shahzad became the third ninth-wicket pair in the match to make their innings' biggest stand.
Yorkshire lost nightwatchman Ryan Sidebottom and captain Andrew Gale during a fine opening spell from Chapple with the target still more than 100 runs.
But then Rashid batted well, blocking decisively and playing wristy shots through the off-side, and with the support of Shahzad the ninth wicket added 53.
As the target came down, still in the morning session so that time was not a factor, the pressure built on Lancashire. Yet seamers Kyle Hogg and Saj Mahmood responded with discipline.
To the cheers of Yorkshire fans willing an improbable victory – their team had, after all, been 45 for 8 in the first innings before Sidebottom and Rich Pyrah compiled their record stand – Rashid steered Mahmood through gully for his sixth four. But the next 29 balls yielded only two singles and frustration.
Shahzad found relief when Hogg offered a widish ball he crashed for four but then, faced with a short delivery, he was lured into hooking and gloved a catch to wicketkeeper Gareth Cross.
But even with their opponents nine down, still 54 short, Lancashire could not consider themselves home, not with Pyrah in at No 11. The first-innings centurion helped Rashid reach lunch, the target now 40.
With the second new ball nine overs away, Yorkshire began the afternoon urgently and Chapple, less tidy, conceded six in an over twice. But it was the old ball, and the left-arm spinner Gary Keedy, that did the trick as Pyrah played back, missed and was lbw.
Captain Chapple believes his team have been underrated. "People made assumptions that we did not have quality, because we have no 35-year-old batsman with 20,000 runs at 50," he said.
"But we have good characters whose commitment in the last two seasons I have never once questioned, and they have simply developed over the last couple of years as quality cricketers."
Warwickshire finished off Sussex by an innings and 43 runs at Edgbaston to complete a fifth win in six matches, New Zealand off-spinner Jeetan Patel taking 6 for 111 for his first 10-wicket haul.
Durham followed on 260 in arrears at Taunton but an opening partnership of 84 between Will Smith and Michael di Venuto raised their hopes of a draw today.
Bottom-placed Hampshire were deducted eight points for a pitch offering excessive turn at the Rose Bowl as Nottinghamshire were held to a nailbiting draw.
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