Lancashire are back on the top of the LV= County Championship table after a 98-run win against Worcestershire at Blackpool. Paul Edwards reports
Having turned up at Stanley Park on Saturday fully ready to gnaw their nails to the quick during squeaky bum time, Lancashire supporters were left wondering if there was somewhere nice they could go for lunch after Glen Chapple's side wrapped up their 98-run win over Worcestershire in just 55 minutes.
Daryl Mitchell's side were bowled out for 230, losing their last five wickets for 27 runs in the truncated session and their last seven second-innings wickets on Friday evening and Saturday morning for 42 runs in less than 17 overs.
Chief architect of the dramatic collapse was Tom Smith, who took four for 7 on the fourth morning of the game to finish with season's best figures of four for 32.
The other wicket was taken by Gary Keedy, who started the tumble of wickets by having Aneesh Kapil stumped by Gareth Cross for seven when the batsman was lured forward in the manner beloved of slow left-armers going back to Bobby Peel and Colin Blythe. That gave Keedy his 50th Championship scalp of the season as well as setting Lancashire on the way to the win which leaves them with a 13-point lead over Durham at the top of the LV= Division One table.
The remainder of the proceedings at a balmy Stanley Park belonged almost exclusively to Smith who first had nightwatchman Shaaiq Choudhry caught low down by Stephen Moore at backward point for four.
Less than four overs later the 25-year-old seamer struck again when he claimed the key scalp of wicketkeeper-batsman Ben Scott, who was lbw playing across the line for two.
The departure of Worcestershire's top scorer in their first innings gave the Lancashire attack the taste of blood and they moved in for a swift kill. Smith struck the final blows, bowling Richard Jones off the inside edge for three and then having Alan Richardson caught at second slip by Steven Croft for one. That left Seasider Croft with an aggregate of 157 runs and five catches in the match.
Gary Keedy finished with four for 58 and skipper Glen Chapple two for 60. Gareth Andrew was left on 14 not out to complete a game in which he had taken eight wickets and scored 75 runs for once out. Neither he, nor most of the Worcestershire side, had too much with which they could reproach themselves.
However, despite their determined resistance for much of this game, the defeat only deepens Worcestershire's relegation worries and the two sides' different goals will also serve to make hostilties even keener when they resume at New Road in 11 days' time.
On Saturday morning, however, Smith was happy to reflect on the opportunities he had been given and the possible consequences for Lancashire's title bid.
"It's a great feeling to be back at the top of the table," said Smith. "There's no easy games between now and the end of the season but if we keep playing the type of cricket we are at the moment then we'll go a long way."
"It's very good to be winning again," said Smith, whose four-wicket burst had removed the need for Glen Chapple to take the new ball. "Losing to Essex in the CB40 was a disappointing result but we've come back hard in the last four days.
"I really didn't want Chappy to take me off," he added. "We were talking about Keeds and myself bowling a few and then taking the new ball, but once I'd taken a wicket or two, I wasn't coming off."
Reports: Day 1 I Day 2 I Day 3
Photo (c) Simon Pendrigh
Article is copyright of Lancashire CCC and must not be reproduced without permission