Luke Sutton believes Lancashire's chances of winning the LV= County Championship title are over barring a miracle after his side lost against Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge.
The Red Rose county’s second defeat in three matches, albeit this one being a contrived ending, leaves the gap between the two sides at 47 points with only three matches left to play.
Captain Glen Chapple offered Chris Read, his opposite number, a manufactured chase of 260 in 64 overs, the equivalent of two sessions. And Read, knowing that a win would leave his title rivals needing snookers to overhaul them at the top of the table, accepted.
Notts subsequently declared their first innings on 203-5 in reply to 319 before Lancs declared their second innings on 143-1 with the help of some joke bowling from the likes of Alex Hales and Ali Brown.
Hales and Brown, who hit 93 and 65 respectively, then played a major part in the afternoon’s and evening’s proceedings as the hosts won by three wickets with more than eight and a half overs to spare.
“We may not have set up a game, but we’d have had to have won our last three games and win the Championship that way,” said Sutton, who announced his intentions to leave the county with immediate effect straight after play.
“But we felt that if we were watching it rain one afternoon at Taunton or Old Trafford, we might regret not having given it a go. We gave it a go, but we just weren’t quite good enough.
“The Championship before this game was Notts’ to win or lose, and that’s been confirmed to an even greater degree now.”
Early wickets from Sajid Mahmood and Chapple reduced the hosts to 23-2 in the seventh over of their chase. Mahmood had Matthew Wood caught at point by Gareth Cross before Chapple forced Mark Wagh to edge to Tom Smith at second slip.
Alex Hales and Samit Patel (37) then shared a third wicket stand of 86 inside 17 overs to steady their side before Hales later added 84 for the fourth wicket with Brown.
Lancs could have had their hosts three down early on had Gary Keedy not dropped a chance at long leg off the bowling of Mahmood to reprieve Patel on one.
Keedy later nipped in with two quick wickets to set home nerves jangling, getting Hales caught behind by Luke Sutton in his last match for the county and forcing Read to skew to Steven Croft at cover point. It left the hosts at 199-5 in the 46th over, needing 61 to win.
Kyle Hogg then snaffled two wickets in two balls, getting Brown caught by Smith at second slip and Paul Franks caught by Paul Horton at first slip. But, by that stage, Notts only needed eight having slipped to 252-7.
Even though Andre Adams hit the winning runs, Steven Mullaney’s run a ball 34 not out also proved key in settling nerves.
Sutton, meanwhile, described the day as “emotional”. He commented: “I feel proud to have played for a club like Lancashire. It’s the right decision for me, and it’s the right decision to move on.”
Graham Hardcastle at Trent Bridge
Photo: Simon Pendrigh
(c) Lancashire CCC Ltd