Uncertainty gradually gave way to glee for visiting supporters at Trent Bridge on Thursday as Lancashire overpowered Notts to win by six wickets
So a day that had begun with Red Rose diehards glancing doubtfully at both the cracked pitch and the cloud-laden skies ended with them celebrating their side's sixth LV= County Championship victory of the season and looking forward to next week's game against leaders Durham at Liverpool.
Thursday's cricket was also a personal triumph for Stephen Moore, who recorded his first Championship century for the county he joined in 2010 and was 124 not out when the win was sealed at 3.30p.m. The opener hit 17 fours and one six in his 208-ball innings and completed the match with an aggregate of 166 runs.
Having received painful blows on his finger from both Luke Fletcher and Andre Adams late on Wednesday, Moore spent the evening with his throbbing digit in a glass of ice, so perhaps it was not surprising that he was coolness personified on Thursday morning as he and Paul Horton doubled Lancashire's overnight score to 64.
Horton's departure for 30, caught by second slip David Hussey when attempting to drive Charlie Shreck, and also that of Karl Brown, lbw playing across the same bowler for 17, did little to disturb the 30-year-old's rhythm at the crease. Instead, Moore went into lunch on 57 not out with Lancashire just short of halfway to their target on 115 for two.
The twenty minutes after the interval were crucial to the outcome of the game. Without adding to his lunchtime score, Moore was dropped by Riki Wessels off Paul Franks on the point boundary and the let-off seemed to reinvigorate Lancashire batsmen quite as much as it deflated Nottinghamshire's bowlers.
Chilton and Moore added 60 runs in just over half an hour with Moore plundering two fours and a six off one Luke Fletcher over. At that stage the Lancastrian canter towards the winning post was threatening to become a gallop, but Andre Adams struck back for Nottinghamshire by having Chilton lbw for 35 when 61 runs were still required.
Nonetheless he and Moore had added 90 to the total and it was noticeable that wickets were not falling like apples in a late October gale.
On the contrary, Moore and Steven Croft's 50-run stand for the fourth wicket took their side to the brink of victory and Croft's dismissal for 21 merely gave the persevering Shreck a third scalp without ever threatening to affect the ultimate outcome of the game.
The win was Lancashire's first Championship success over Nottinghamshire in five years. Key to the victory was the batting of Lancashire's openers who had to face the new ball on a wicket which could not be trusted to provide even bounce.
In retrospect, Moore and Horton's partnerships were worth even more than the 82 and 64 runs they yielded; their ability to withstand Nottinghamshire's seamers on Wednesday evening when the home side scented early wickets was admirable.
Having had his season cut short by injury last season, Moore was understandably delighted with his performance at Trent Bridge and made light of the devils in the wicket.
"That hundred is going to be right up there with the best centuries I've scored, purely based on the fact that it was a fourth day wicket which was doing a bit and there was a game to be won," he said.
"It's not very often as a batsman that you get a chance to go out there in a Championship game and bat to win a game. It was pleasing to be able to chase a challenging total against a good side."
"Most of the time the wicket felt quite nice to bat on," he added. "You just had the odd one which exploded and the odd one which stayed low, but it was just a case of trying to ignore that and carry on batting."
For his part, Lancashire coach Peter Moores was also quick to praise the efforts of his openers. "I thought the way Horton and Moore batted up front in the first innings as well as the second was a significant difference in the game, " he said.
"We saw off the new ball twice and we managed to make significant inroads into Nottinghamshire quite quickly in both innings. That was important because when the ball was harder, it went up and down more. The wicket had a naughty ball in it and you just hoped that when you got that, it didn't get you out.
"It was a key session last night when Paul and Stephen got us through that last 13 overs. If we'd lost a couple then, it would have been really tough to come here today."
Lancashire's players now go to Durham for a Friends Life t20 game on Friday evening, and James Anderson has been named in the squad for that match. Lancashire's fans on the other hand may opt to let tomorrow take care of itself. This evening they can go home and share their glee.
*Tales from Trent Bridge, day 4, will appear tomorrow
Photo (c) John Walton/EMPICS Sport
Article is copyright of Lancashire CCC and must not be reproduced without permission