LANCASHIRE closed the gap at the top of LV= County Championship Division Two to 17 points after an eight-wicket win over leaders Northamptonshire at Emirates Old Trafford.
Having bowled the visitors out for 62 in their first innings and 169 in their second, Lancashire scored the 73 they needed to claim their fourth victory of the season before the end of day two.
“It is a great result for us against the team who are top of the table,” said skipper Glen Chapple.
“As a bowling unit we are going really well, we are confident. The weather conditions suited bowling on day one, it was really humid and it was apparent from warming up it was going to swing, which is why we bowled.
“The pitch was pretty good, but it is the first time this season we have had ideal conditions for swing bowling.
“But we were delighted with how we bowled and maybe they won’t be so happy with how they batted.”
Luke Procter claimed 4-39 – including two in one over – to set-up Lancashire’s victory after half-centuries from both Andrew Hall and David Murphy had frustrated Glen Chapple’s men.
Having resumed day two on 121-8, Tom Smith’s unbeaten 35 in the morning and a 30-run stand with Simon Kerrigan helped Lancashire to 159 in their first innings, a lead of 97.
And Lancashire soon had Northants in trouble in their second innings as they slumped to 80-7.
Kyle Coetzer was first to go, caught by Chapple at mid-on off the bowling of Kyle Hogg. And then the skipper got in the wickets as David Sales chopped one on to his own stumps.
Hogg claimed his ninth victim of the game when he trapped James Middlebrook lbw for three to send Northants in at lunch on 26-3.
Robert Keogh played on a Smith delivery before Procter claimed his first wicket when Alex Wakely cut him to Ashwell Prince at point and followed it up with his second as Steven Crook was caught by Luis Reece at mid-wicket.
And when David Willey chipped a Smith delivery to Chapple at mid-on for five, Northants were seven wickets down and still 17 runs behind Lancashire.
But Hall and Murphy ensured they avoided an innings defeat with the highest partnership of the match as they put on 89.
The duo both reached their half-centuries before the wickets tumbled again. Hall edged Procter to Smith at first slip for 55 and, three balls later, Graeme White bagged a pair when he played on a Procter delivery.
And Kerrigan ended the Northants innings by trapping Murphy lbw for 50 as the last three wickets fell in eight balls without a run being added.
Although Procter fell cheaply, Ashwell Prince (38) and Luis Reece (22no) saw Lancashire home.
Meanwhile, Cricket Director Mike Watkinson defended the performance of the wicket, despite the game finishing in two days.
“(Pitch inspector) Jack Birkenshaw has been here on behalf of the ECB during preparation time for the game and for the entire match and in his opinion it has been swinging ball, climatic conditions, and poor batting that has attributed to the wickets,” said Watkinson. ”There has been nothing excessive from the pitch.
“We prepared a good pitch for the top two sides in the division to play a good game of cricket.”