Lancs cricketers march on towards title

Stand-in skipper Steven Croft

Stand-in skipper Steven Croft

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Lancashire’s cricketers finally wrapped up a 122-run victory 90 minutes into the final afternoon of their LV= County Championship Division Two game against Hampshire at Southport.

Lancashire’s bowlers were made to fight all the way by Hampshire’s Adam Wheater and Matt Coles, who responded to a seemingly forlorn task with a stand of 191 for the eighth wicket.

The win extends Lancashire’s lead over Northamptonshire at the top of the table to 33 points and reinforces their position as hot favourites to win the Division Two title in September.

However, the fourth day of the game will be remembered for the partnership between Wheater, who made 140, and loan signing Coles, who contributed 68 to a partnership which frustrated Lancashire’s expected stroll to victory.

The pair established a new eighth-wicket record for matches between Hampshire and Lancashire and also put the efforts of visitors’ established batsmen on Friday afternoon in a far from favourable light.

The morning’s play was entirely dominated by Hampshire’s eighth-wicket duo, who added 145 runs in 38 overs and were scarcely troubled by the six-man Lancashire attack.

Wheater reached his first Championship hundred for his new side in 182 balls, having hit 19 fours, while Coles got to 50 off 101 deliveries immediately afterwards. Both batsmen played with immense composure and alarms were very few.

Steven Croft, who was skippering Lancashire in the absence of the injured Glen Chapple, opted to take the new ball as soon as it became available but his seamers enjoyed as little success as his spinners had on a still very sound Trafalgar Road wicket.

Indeed, Lancashire had to wait until nearly an hour into the afternoon session for their first breakthrough, Wheater edging Simon Kerrigan to Gareth Cross behind the stumps. The former Essex wicketkeeper-batsman had faced 232 balls and hit 22 fours and a six.

Two balls later Coles’ cross-batted swipe at Luis Reece’s medium pace resulted in the loss of his middle stump but even that dismissal did not end the entertainment for the Southport crowd.

James Tomlinson and 16-year-old debutant Brad Taylor added 53 for the last wicket in just seven overs before Taylor was stumped by Cross off Kerrigan for 20. Tomlinson was left unbeaten on 30 and Kerrigan finished with four for 97 in the second innings and seven wickets in the match.