Somerset 202 & 66-2 Lancashire 248: Langer allows heart to rule over head in title challenge

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The Independent Online

Scratch the surface of Justin Langer and you get a profound man. It was characteristic of him when he said not so long ago: "As long as you are true to yourself – you make a decision based on what your heart is telling you and not necessarily your head every time, then you can go to bed feeling pretty good about yourself each night."

The heart must have been in its element yesterday and may have undermined Somerset's challenge for their maiden Championship title. It was an overcast morning, and Lancashire were 56 for 4, still 146 behind. History was at stake. The obvious thing to do, said the head, was to throw the ball to Charl Willoughby and Andrew Caddick and ask them to do the business. Had they not created considerable discomfiture in Lancashire's ranks the previous evening? Instead Somerset's captain summoned Alfonso Thomas and Steffan Jones. If they did not do poorly, there was too much waywardness. Lancashire plodded on. Almost an hour had passed before Caddick was called.

There were immediate inroads, with the nightwatchman, Gary Keedy nicking one to slip from the fifth ball. Caddick might also have removed Mal Loye shortly after, also held at slip, but was called for a no ball.

He assembled an intelligent and probing spell but could not disturb the feeling that the moment had gone. Lancashire, fighting relegation, constructed three obstinate stands. They were not done even when Loye, grinding out his first Championship half-century of a gloomy season, was out leg before to Ian Blackwell.

Langer dropped one at slip off Caddick to compound his apparent mistake. Lancashire should now escape but they continue to frustrate their long-suffering support. At breakfast, while Langer was presumably wrestling with his head and heart, an old-time Lancastrian follower, told about his Championship love affair.

He had been taken to Old Trafford in 1957 to watch Lancashire play Middlesex in Denis Compton's last season. The man who took him left him alone under the scoreboard. Compton scored 104 between lunch and tea and the lonely 11-year-old was hooked for life. That would be appreciated by Langer, who has a sense of the game's history. But it was not his day. He played an errant drive early in Somerset's second innings as did Marcus Trescothick, both pouched behind. Somerset lead by 20 but they need to play serious cricket with their heads for the next two days.