Kerrigan reaches cloud nine to lift Lancashire

 

David Lloyd
Sunday 11 September 2011 00:00
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There may be another big dollop of drama to come. But whatever happens during this week's final round of championship matches, it is hard to see how there could be more tension in the air than there was at Liverpool as Lancashire clinched a vital victory over Hampshire with just four minutes and 10 balls to spare.

The county that last won the title outright 77 years ago needed the win to keep on the coat-tails of new leaders Warwickshire – and they achieved it when, after 21 overs of defiance from the visitors' last wicket pair, the spinner Simon Kerrigan broke through to dismiss Neil McKenzie.

Lancashire's victory margin of 222 runs was huge. But they were so close to running out of time as Hampshire's No 11, James Tomlinson, offered unexpectedly stout defence to see off 51 deliveries. Then, with every fielder around the bat, left-armer Kerrigan persuaded McKenzie to edge a catch to second slip – leaving the 22-year-old bowler with an astonishing innings return of 9 for 51 from 37.2 overs.

The only other wicket went to Kerrigan's vastly more experienced spin partner, Gary Keedy. Together, the pair had toiled away for most of the last two sessions with Kerrigan's career-best performance – in only his third championship match of the season – wiping away the thought that Lancashire should have declared a little earlier on the final day.

It all means that Lancashire, who face Somerset at Taunton in their last match, are three points behind Warwickshire with Durham a distant but not completely out of it third – 15 points adrift of the leaders.

When Warwickshire travelled to the Rose Bowl 12 months ago, they needed a victory against Hampshire to banish the threat of relegation from the Division One. Now they make the same journey tomorrow knowing that another win this week may well see them crowned county champions for the first time since 2004.

Apart from the early days of April, the Bears have been in the pack rather than top of the pile – staying within touching distance of Durham, Lancashire and Somerset. But, having completed an innings victory over title-holders Nottinghamshire before lunch at Edgbaston, they are ahead of the field. Not by much, admittedly, thanks to Lancashire's never-say-die effort in Liverpool. But it could be that the force is with Warwickshire.

They have recruited wisely with their three overseas signings – Mohammad Yousuf, Jeetan Patel and Shiv Chanderpaul – having contributed significantly, in early, mid and late season. And when injuries and international calls threatened to deplete the attack, Chris Wright was recruited, on loan, from Essex.

By taking two of the four remaining Notts wickets yesterday, Wright finished with 5 for 74 and, having struck 19 times in three matches, it is no wonder Warwickshire want to hire the pace bowler on a permanent basis.

For the captain, Jim Troughton, the key is for his team not to get ahead of themselves. "It's important to have the initiative going into the last game but we have to go about our cricket in exactly the same way as we have all year," said the former England one-day batsman, who scored his first Championship century for two seasons during the thumping of Notts.

Down at the bottom, Yorkshire are all but doomed despite beating Somerset yesterday. And even a win for Hampshire against Warwickshire is unlikely to save them from the drop, either.

As for who comes up, Surrey look well placed to win promotion behind the Division Two title favourites Middlesex.

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