Lancashire and Middlesex settle for a draw
Lancashire closed their final home Specsavers County Championship match of 2016 with a draw against Championship leaders Middlesex and head to Edgbaston for the season finale against Warwickshire, starting next Tuesday.
The teams shook hands on the draw at 4.30pm with Lancashire on 80-1 in their second innings having been set a fairly improbable 309 runs to win from 44 overs.
Lancashire took 9 points from the match and Middlesex 11.
The result means Lancashire are in 6th place on 162 points with Warwickshire 7th on 156 points while 8th placed Hampshire have 148 points. Hampshire play Durham at the Ageas Bowl in their final game next week.
Middlesex head the table with 213 points, ahead of Yorkshire who have 204 and these two teams meet at Lord’s in the final round of games. Somerset, 3rd in the table on 203 points, are at home to relegated Nottinghamshire.
Middlesex began the final day at Emirates Old Trafford on 72-4 in their second innings with Dawid Malan and John Simpson settling to build slowly and patiently on their 140 run lead.
The pair batted through the morning and were not parted until 1.40pm by which time their partnership had realised 149 runs across 54 overs, ended when Malan edged Simon Kerrigan to Jos Buttler after making 87 with the score 206-5.
Apart from a six by Malan off Steven Croft and a reverse sweep from Malan that brought up the hundred partnership, it was steady progress by the visitors.
It was not the most riveting viewing with the visitors happy to bat Lancashire out of the game and extend their lead at the top of the Championship table.
The dismissal of Malan was the first of three wickets in seven balls for Kerrigan as Middlesex hit out in the search of some quick runs before declaring.
Kerrigan dismissed Toby Roland-Jones and James Franklin to finish with 6-86 and after Luke Procter had uprooted John Simpson’s leg stump, the left hander out for 74, Middlesex called a halt at 240-8 setting Lancashire a target of 309 off 44 overs.
Jos Buttler, promoted to open, launched a blistering attack taking 13 off Steven Finn’s initial over and then scooping Roland-Jones over fine leg for 6 as Lancashire made a brave attempt to chase the stiff target set.
Sadly Buttler fell for 26 off just 13 balls when he got a leading edge attempting to pull Finn to the leg side with Nick Compton taking a comfortable catch close to the wicket.
That ended any Red Rose thoughts of pushing for an unlikely win, with Rob Jones and Haseeb Hameed safely negotiating the remainder of the day, both finishing on 25 not out with Lancashire 80-1.
Ashley Giles was pleased with Lancashire’s fightback to seal a draw but admitted to frustration about how the game had started.
“It was a long first day and we didn’t bowl or field very well,” he said. “But after that we showed a lot of fight and a lot of character.
“I’m delighted with some of the individual performances but again-and this is the story of the season-we need to start better and get into games quicker.”
“It was a new ball wicket, but we didn’t get it right on that first day. The second new ball we did and took seven wickets for 69 runs. Then Middlesex had us at 6-4. So clearly the new ball made a difference.
“What have got to do differently? We’ve got to play better cricket.
“What is frustrating for us is understanding that we are at a different level to some of these teams in terms of maturity.
“Look at the line-ups for Middlesex, Warwickshire, Yorkshire – they have a lot of players who have played a lot of cricket, players who are over thirty years old.
“We have guys who are 19, 20, 22 playing in their first season, some in their first ten games. It’s going to be difficult and we are going to make mistakes. At the same time we are balancing that with staying in division one of the Championship. That is our main aim.
“But this sense that we should be thrashing Middlesex right now, they are a Championship contending team full of very good mature cricketers. This side I believe will be there one day-it’s not there right now.”
Today’s result leaves Lancashire 6 points ahead of Warwickshire and 14 in front of Hampshire, who occupy the remaining relegation spot and Giles added: “We’ve got to go to Warwickshire next week and try to win.
“As games unfold, there’s no point in being kamikaze if you don’t need to be. So we’ve got to be able to adapt as well but the priority is to play some good tough cricket there. They will be looking for a result, so it’s going to be a tough last round for all of us.
A 14 point advantage over Hampshire is a nice cushion but a win for them means we’ve got to get a lot of bonus points. So there’s all to play for.”
Photo (c) Simon Pendrigh