IF LANCASHIRE do go on to win cricket’s County Championship for the first time since 1950 and the first time outright since 1934, they will look back fondly on the part played over four sun-kissed days in Blackpool.
Actually, the fourth day only lasted 55 minutes, that being the time needed to take the final five Worcestershire wickets and complete a 98-run victory.
Tom Smith took four wickets for just seven runs as Lancashire opened up a 13-point lead over Durham at the top with three matches to play. More good news came the Red Rose’s way later on Saturday, with title challengers Warwickshire’s shock defeat at Hampshire.
Smith produced a devastating spell of four for seven in 7.2 overs as Daryl Mitchell’s side were bowled out for 230, losing their last five wickets for 27 runs this morning.
The first Worcestershire batsman to be dismissed on the fourth morning at Blackpool was Aneesh Kapil, who was dragged forward by Gary Keedy and smartly stumped by Gareth Cross for seven to give the slow left-armer his 50th Championship wicket of a season in which he has recently been linked with a move to Warwickshire.
The rest of the morning belonged to Smith, who began his best spell of the season when he had nightwatchman Shaaiq Choudhry caught low down at backward point by Stephen Moore for four.
Less than four overs later the 25-year-old seamer struck again when he claimed the key wicket of wicketkeeper-batsman Ben Scott, who was lbw playing across the line for two.
The departure of Worcestershire’s top scorer in their first innings only served to further energise the Lancashire attack and it was Smith who struck the final blows, bowling Richard Jones off the inside edge for three and then having Alan Richardson caught at second slip by Blackpool-born Steven Croft for one.
That left Smith with season best figures of 4-32, while Keedy claimed4-58 and skipper Glen Chapple 2-60. Gareth Andrew was left on 14 not out to complete a match in which he had taken eight wickets and scored 75 runs.
Despite their determined resistance for much of this game, the defeat only deepens Worcestershire’s relegation worries and the two sides will resume hostilities at New Road next week.
n LANCASHIRE couldn’t carry on where they left off yesterday, when they were convincingly beaten by Glamorgan in the CB 40 at Colwyn Bay.
A career-best 144 from captain Alviro Petersen steered the hosts to a record 328-4 en route to a 73-run victory.
The South African shared in a record opening stand of 199 with Gareth Rees (76). His century came off only 89 balls. Pietersen hit ten of his side’s 18 sixes, including the one which smashed the window of Lancashire’s dressing room.
Even when Petersen was out the momentum continued with Stewart Walters plundering a half-century from just 19 balls.
In reply Lancashire could only make 259 all out in 30.4 overs as slow left armer Dean Cosker took 4-43 from seven overs. Glamorgan’s total was all the more impressive considering the match was reduced to 33 overs a side because of rain.
The Dragons reached 50 in only seven overs, with Petersen requiring just 36 balls for his half-century.
He struck Oliver Newby for three consecutive sixes in an over before Rees got in on the act, hitting Stephen Parry for two sixes as the 150 came up in the 19th over.
Rees also lofted Steven Croft for six onto the pavilion roof before Petersen reached his first one-day hundred for the Dragons from 76 balls.
The pair passed the county’s record opening stand of 181 made by Jimmy Maher and Robert Croft against Essex at Sophia Gardens in 2003.
Graham Wagg put on 75 in 25 balls to ensure Lancashire would need almost ten an over for victory.
Lancashire lost Smith in only the first over, caught at midwicket attempting a sweep off Nick James, but a breezy half-century from 20 balls from Stephen Moore kept the Lightning up with the required rate but he was bowled by Will Owen.
Steven Croft and Paul Horton put on 94 runs in ten overs but the momentum halted when Cosker bowled Croft, who scored 85 in 55 balls.