Lancashire's bid for LV= County Championship promotion marches relentlessly on. The Red Rose county convincingly beat Worcestershire at New Road by nine wickets to clinch their seventh win of the season today.
Luis Reece continued his excellent form at the top of the order with an unbeaten 56 off 51 balls, his fourth fifty in a row, as the Division Two leaders chased down 88 in 19 overs for the loss of only Paul Horton.
The visitors claimed the maximum haul of 24 points for the first time this season shortly before 2.45pm to move 34 points clear of Northamptonshire in second place after 12 matches.
More importantly, Lancashire have opened up a 65-point gap between themselves and third-placed Essex, who have only played 11 matches. It means they only need 56 points from four matches to seal a place in the top flight.
That is assuming Essex gain a maximum of 120 points from their last five matches, which is very unlikely. The earliest opportunity Glen Chapple’s side could clinch promotion is against Leicestershire at Emirates Old Trafford, a match which starts on September 11.
Lancashire’s next Championship outing comes against Hampshire at Southport’s Trafalgar Road ground on Wednesday.
“It’s a very good win,” said coach Peter Moores. “They’re a very dangerous side, Worcester. We’ve come here before and been turned over, but we played very good cricket on a good pitch. We had to work hard.
“We’re in a good position with four games to go. Promotion was our number one goal at the start of the season, but we want to try and win it (the title), we’ve said that all along.
“We’ll go to Southport feeling confident. We’re the only team in the country who haven’t been beaten yet, which is a good thing to say because it means we’ve been playing good, solid cricket all year. We’ll try and do the same against Hampshire.”
Captain Chapple and fellow seamers Kyle Hogg and Tom Smith finished Worcester’s second innings, which totalled 241, with three wickets apiece, while wicketkeeper Gareth Cross finished with five catches - four of them today.
England Lions batsman Moeen Ali only added eight to his overnight score of 101 before Chapple had him caught behind to leave the score at 185-6, a lead of only 31. Night-watchman Jack Shantry was the next best contributor with 31, but he was another victim for Cross as he tried to leave Hogg alone.
Smith then had Graeme Cessford caught behind before he trapped Ben Cox lbw to wrap up the innings.
After the early loss of Horton, caught at point as he cut at Cessford, Reece and Ashwell Prince (19 not out) shared 71 in 15 overs for the second wicket. Reece reached 50 off 44 balls with a straight six off Ali before Prince hit the winning runs shortly before 2.45pm. There were still 52 overs left in the match.
Photo of Glen Chapple (c) Tony Marshall/EMPICS Sport