Middlesex 258-6 Lancashire: Chilton faces gamble as Lancashire worry over the weather

There are days when the prospect of an early getaway can make the sight of persistent rain seem quite appealing even to the most dedicated cricketer, yet there was little enthusiasm among the Lancashire team for the grey wetness enveloping Manchester yesterday morning.

In other sports, a closing schedule of three home matches in four would be seen as an advantage but things are not so clear cut in cricket and nagging away at the back of Lancastrian minds is the possibility that a soggy north-western autumn might join Sussex and Hampshire in threatening their hopes of a first outright Championship since 1934.

The news, received soon after lunch, that Sussex had beaten Durham to reclaim first place made it all the more important that the window in the weather that allowed this match to resume at 3.30pm was not wasted. Every point gained from now has the potential to be crucial and the one Lancashire acquired in the 43 overs possible could be the one that clinches the title.

The forecast for today points to further, maybe prolonged interruptions, which could leave Mark Chilton, the Lancashire captain, with a tactical dilemma. Logically, a win would be the best outcome for his side, but with the equivalent of a full day already lost the chances of achieving it are slim. Better, perhaps, to strive for the more attainable goal of maximum bonus points and a draw, which would at least enable Lancashire to complete the current round of games still one point in front.

Middlesex have their own agenda, staying up, and Owais Shah, unbeaten on 73 overnight, completed his second century in three days after more than four hours at the crease before Gary Keedy teased him out.

Eoin Morgan bottom edged a ball from Tom Smith into his stumps and Keedy trapped Scott Styris leg before but it was Middlesex, thanks to an unbroken partnership of 40 between David Nash and Paul Weekes, who claimed a second point. The loss of Glen Chapple through injury did not help Lancashire's cause.

* James Anderson, prevented from playing any part in Lancashire or England's seasons because of the stress fracture of the back he suffered in India in March, is scheduled to play for his club side, Burnley, in Lancashire League matches against Bacup and Nelson this weekend.

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