Spinners respond to Hegg's call

Warren Hegg completed a memorable week in his capacity as acting captain by leading Lancashire to successive one-day and four-day victories over Somerset and by becoming the county wicketkeeper with the most catches, overtaking George Duckworth's 634.

Warren Hegg completed a memorable week in his capacity as acting captain by leading Lancashire to successive one-day and four-day victories over Somerset and by becoming the county wicketkeeper with the most catches, overtaking George Duckworth's 634.

He was also captain, while John Crawley recovers from an appendix operation, when Lancashire survived a visit from the pitch panel and will be leading them against the champions Surrey, on Wednesday when the title will be confirmed. All Surrey have to do is to declare and ensure Lancashire do not collect full points.

That will not lessen the tensions. Pitch inspections have made this a highly political summer. Lancashire were always confident that they would not lose eight points over this surface but it has to be repeated that if Scarborough (grassy but no variable bounce) was punishable then so was Old Trafford (bare but variable bounce throughout). At Scarborough eight wickets fell on the first day for 330 runs; here 12 wickets fell for 274. Both pitches were damp at the start; it has been a very wet summer in the North.

Somerset have lost at both venues and not uttered a word of complaint. Without their two Test players and their injured leading bowler Matt Bulbeck, they would not have expected to collect too many points on their Northern visits but, at least, their First Division status is safe.

Resuming 266 runs behind with four wickets down, they could only prolong proceedings to save face and hope that the weather might intervene. The innings lasted another 35 overs, Peter Bowler batting through 33 of them to add another 53 runs. The tail rallied behind his leadership but the early loss of Mike Burns and Graham Rose meant that any sliver of hope of saving the match had gone. Hegg, again, let the spinners apply the coup de grâce.

Lancashire should finish second for a third successive year and have been showing increasing tenacity in the final weeks, a sign perhaps that the title that has eluded them outright since 1934 may soon join the FA Premiership trophy, housed a half-mile away. They are waiting confirmation that Sri Lanka's schedule will permit the re-signing of Muttiah Muralitharan. There will also be active recruiting for at least two Test-class reinforcements this winter.

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