Lancashire's 109-run defeat against Middlesex at Lord's today means the county have been relegated from the top-tier of the LV= County Championship and will be playing their four-day cricket in Division Two in 2013.
Backed into a corner by Surrey’s 195-run win over Nottinghamshire across the River Thames at the Oval, Lancashire simply had to chase down an extremely tricky 304 in the last 39 overs of the contest after tea.
Steven Croft and Karl Brown shared an entertaining partnership of 57 in seven overs for the third wicket to give their side brief hope by reaching 107-2 after 16 overs, but things went downhill pretty quickly from then on.
Former Lancashire all-rounder Steven Crook was the architect of their downfall with five wickets in 18 balls as the score slipped to 178-8. Left-arm spinner Ravi Patel also took 4-72 from 12 overs as the visitors were finally bowled out for 194 in 32 overs.
Captain Glen Chapple said: “It’s obviously very disappointing from a professional point of view. We’ve worked hard all season, and I would stress that the lads have given everything they have. It’s just not been enough, that’s the reality.
“We haven’t got into winning positions enough. When we have, we haven’t capitalised. A lot of small things make a huge difference in outcomes and results. We’ve only won one game all season. It’s important that we look at it objectively and work out how to bounce back.”
Chapple also refused to blame the summer’s bad weather for his side’s plight.
After knocking whispers circulating the ground through the afternoon about his possible retirement on the head, he added: “I don’t really want to talk about the weather. I don’t want to come out of this looking like I’m making excuses because we’ve still played enough cricket to get points on the board. We’ve made mistakes at bad times, which have cost us.”
Simon Kerrigan, the first spinner in the country to take 50 first-class wickets this season, and Tom Smith struck in the morning session to get rid of Chris Rogers caught behind and Neil Dexter caught at second slip.
Opener Rogers shared a third-wicket stand of 134 inside 34 overs with fellow left-hander Dawid Malan, the pair scoring 86 and and 95 respectively. Malan and Jon Simpson then shared 58 in 23 overs for the fifth wicket to further frustrate the visitors as time to force a result drifted away.
But enter Chapple, who struck four times in quick succession to leave his side at least chasing a target for victory after tea. After delaying taking the second new ball by two overs, he steamed in to take four of the five wickets to fall for the addition of 24 runs in 36 balls.
Middlesex, having been 265-4, were suddenly 289-9 just before the tea interval, with Ajmal Shahzad taking the other.
Malan was caught behind off Chapple before Shahzad ripped out Jon Simpson’s middle and leg stumps. Chapple then had Crook caught at first slip by a juggling Paul Horton before trapping Gareth Berg lbw and bowling Ravi Patel with successive deliveries at the start of the 91st over.
Shortly after Middlesex had passed 300, the declaration came with 94 overs having been bowled.
Chapple clinched his second five-wicket haul of the match to record 10 in the match for the third time in his career.
Despite the early losses of openers Ashwell Prince, who passed 1,000 runs for the season in posting 20, and Smith, Lancashire kept in touch with the required rate of 7.79 runs per over by reaching 107-2 after 16 overs.
Prince was caught at mid-on as he attempted to pull Corey Collymore before Smith was stumped off Patel’s first ball. But that brought Croft and Brown together for their seven-over alliance to really get things moving, with both men hitting a six on the way to 30 and 33 respectively.
It was just a shame that they fell to Crook in the space of five balls in the 17th over, both bowled. And when Gareth Cross was trapped lbw by his former team-mate for a golden duck with the last ball of the same over, Lancashire were 112-5 and in trouble.
Crook then added the wickets of Paul Horton and Chapple to his tally, both bowled, while Patel bowled Kyle Hogg and trapped Luke Procter lbw to add to his earlier scalp of Smith and leave the score at 178-9 in the 28th over.
Patel then had Kerrigan caught at second slip to leave Shahzad unbeaten on 26.
Coach Peter Moores, whose side round off their campaign against Surrey at Liverpool on Tuesday, added: “It’s hugely disappointing. To me, you’ve just got to take it on the chin. You can’t take the successes if you’re not prepared to take the losses that come with it. Our job, maybe not immediately, is to look back at different areas so that we make sure we keep moving on as a team.”
Article (c) Lancashire CCC Ltd
Photo (c) Adam Davey/EMPICS Sport