Nine-wicket star Simon Kerrigan sent Aigburth wild with delight as Lancashire secured a thrilling LV= County Championship win over Hampshire today.
And now the Red Rose county head to Taunton ahead of Monday’s final week clash with Somerset knowing they are just three points behind Division One leaders Warwickshire, who also beat Nottinghamshire at Edgbaston.
Left-arm spinner Kerrigan, the 22 year-old from Preston, stunned Hampshire with career best innings figures of 9-51 from 37.2 overs to secure a ninth win of the season with just four minutes of the contest remaining.
They were the best figures by a Lancashire bowler since Roy Tattersall took 9-40 against Notts in 1953.
Hampshire were set 361 to win from a minimum of 67 overs, but an away win was never on the cards because they shut up shop following a 12.05pm declaration from Glen Chapple.
And, with spinners Kerrigan, Gary Keedy and Steven Croft in operation, Lancashire bowled 84.2 to whip the relegation battling visitors out for 138.
Despite some top order resistance, the visitors crumbled in a remarkable session after tea, slumping from 77-3 to 199-9 as Kerrigan blew the game wide open when a draw looked most likely.
He took all six wickets in that sequence, but last wicket pair Neil McKenzie and James Tomlinson batted for 21.2 overs to almost prevent a 222-run win for the cock-a-hoop home side.
Tomlinson was the most likely man to fall, but it was McKenzie who was caught by Tom Smith in the gully off Kerrigan to secure the 22 points in the most dramatic of fashions with just 4 minutes of the game remaining.
“They were crazy scenes towards the end,” said Kerrigan. “There was a bit of panic setting in when we only had five minutes left to get that last wicket. We were bowling at them for 45 minutes with them at nine down, but thankfully we got it.
“We thought they were going to go for it, but they shut up shop more or less. It was a great effort to get ourselves into a position that we did.
“When Tomlinson came in, we thought we'd get him every ball. When he started finding his rhythm, we got a bit worried. Time starts ticking by, and all of a sudden we've only got four minutes left.
“The lads are going into that last game believing that anything's possible after today.”
Liam Dawson was first to go when he when he was stumped by Gareth Cross off Kerrigan, leaving the score at 26-1 in the 12th over, and Kerrigan struck again in the 22nd, trapping Jimmy Adams lbw.
Keedy then had Michael Carberry caught by Karl Brown at mid-off nine overs later.
And, when Kerrigan struck for a third time, trapping James Vince lbw with his first ball of the match from the River End of the ground, Hampshire were 77-4 in the 37th.
Kerrigan had bowled all his over from the Pavilion End of the ground, but asked wicketkeeper Cross and captain Chapple if he could bowl from the other end if an opportunity arose.
“As soon as I got to the other end, they said 'right, no pressure, you've got to perform',” said a beaming Kerrigan. “Thankfully I got the wicket first ball, and it set me in.”
Sean Ervine, who clubbed Kerrigan for six over wide long-on, and McKenzie then shared 30 in 12.2 for the fifth wicket to frustrate the hosts, but there was more to come from the young spinner.
He had Ervine caught at first slip by Paul Horton, and bowled Michael Bates for a second-ball duck to reduce the visitors to 107-6 in the 49th over. Dimitri Mascarenhas was next to go, falling the same way Ervine had, in Kerrigan’s next over with the score still on 107.
Chris Wood then edged behind to a juggling Cross in the 59th over. And, when the same bowler had Danny Briggs caught at silly point by Luke Procter in the 62nd, Hampshire were tottering at 119-9 after 63 overs.
Tomlinson’s and McKenzie’s efforts should not be overlooked in the euphoria of a home success.
The way they batted with soft hands with up to ten men around the bat at was certainly admirable. Some would describe it as exceptional.
But the latter nudged Kerrigan to Tom Smith at silly point to spark wild scenes on and off the field from a Lancashire point of view, mirroring the Yorkshire game here earlier this season.
On Kerrigan, coach Peter Moores said: “He has the ability to put pace on the ball, he's got two or three different deliveries, and how he bowled in the second innings was the quality of an international spinner. That's the highest compliment I can pay.
“He got good players out with fairly unplayable balls on a pitch that became quite sub-continental.”
Earlier, opener Stephen Moore led Lancashire’s search for quick runs by completing a 230-ball innings of 169 not out, including 17 fours. It was Moore's highest score for Lancashire.
Lancashire resumed this morning on 195-2 with a lead of 202, and he and Brown (54) added 158 runs in 27 overs to finish on 353-3 from 77 overs. The pair shared a total third-wicket partnership of 161 inside 29 overs, with the declaration coming at the fall of Brown's wicket.
It was the precursor to an extraordinary day that few present will ever forget.
Reports: Day 1 I Day 2 I Day 3
Photo (c) Simon Pendrigh
Article (c) Lancashire CCC