Lancashire prevail in relegation nail-biter

Smith - Lancashire hero
Smith - Lancashire hero
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Lancashire’s Tom Smith made a superb 35 not out to guide his side to a nerve-shredding one-wicket victory over Durham in the LV= County Championship Division One relegation battle at Emirates Old Trafford.

Smith added 17 for the last wicket with Simon Kerrigan, who made 10 not out, and the win, which was completed with only two balls to spare, lifts Lancashire out of the relegation zone.

Yet the outcome was very hard on Durham’s seamers who had staged a magnificent attempt to defend 107 after their side had earlier been bowled out 187.

John Hastings and Chris Rushworth performed superbly to reduce Lancashire to 36 for five inside 14 overs before Smith and Alex Davies, who made 23, added 43 for the sixth wicket to calm the home supporters.

However, Ben Stokes then took three wickets in eight balls and when Tom Bailey was caught at mid off by Mark Stoneman off Hastings, Durham were firm favourites with Lancashire on 90 for nine.

Kerrigan had other ideas, though, and he and Smith took their side home with an apparent calmness they probably did not feel.

Hastings finished with four for 40, Stokes took three for 25 in 8.4 overs and Rushworth’s new-ball spell earned him figures of two for 21. Only Smith, Davies and Kerrigan reached double figures in Lancashire’s second innings

Earlier in the day the six-man home attack had taken nine wickets for 128 to set up the thrilling climax.

In the morning session Durham scored 70 runs in 33 overs to take a lead of 48 but they lost five big wickets in doing so.

Three of these fell to Kerrigan who had both Keaton Jennings and Michael Richardson lbw before claiming the vital scalp of Ben Stokes when the England all-rounder clipped the ball firmly to leg, only to see short-leg Steven Croft take an outstanding catch.

Glen Chapple had Scott Borthwick lbw on the front foot for 20, although the Durham player was well forward and appeared a little unlucky to fall foul of the decision.

Five minutes before the interval Steven Parry took his first top division wicket since 2009 when Phil Mustard tried to work the slow left-armer to leg but lost his leg bail, a remarkable dismissal given that Parry was operating over the wicket at the time.

Paul Collingwood came into lunch on 14 and Calum MacLeod was unbeaten on one.

In the afternoon session Lancashire took wickets steadily with three bowlers enjoying success. Five overs after the resumption MacLeod was run out without addition when he pushed Kerrigan for a single but was beaten by Bailey’s direct hit from cover.

The strength and depth of Durham’s batting was proved to a degree by Hastings, who followed his first innings 83 by batting half an hour for 16 and helping Collingwood add 22 valuable runs.

However, Durham’s No. 9 was beaten by a full-length, swinging delivery from Chapple which he could only edge to Davies. Ryan Buckley, who had been off the field with a virus for the previous two days, then made nine but his resistance was ended when he nicked Steven Croft to Paul Horton at slip.

Despite Collingwood’s attempts to farm the strike, Chris Rushworth eventually had to face a delivery, and he was bowled by his second delivery, bowled by Bailey.

That left Lancashire needing what appeared to be a modest 107 to win. Kerrigan finished with four for 61 and match figures of eight for 147 after his most impressive display with the ball this summer.

For his part, Collingwood did all he could to resist the Lancashire bowlers and was 45 not out after batting defiantly for 142 minutes. Ultimately, though, his thoughtful captaincy could not prevent Lancashire recording a vital victory.

“It was just great to get over the line and get a win,” a delighted Smith said. “You’re more nervous when you are sitting down watching.

“Alex Davies played a great knock for a 19-year-old lad and the result was testament to Simon Kerrigan because he works hard on his batting and he was really calm.

“But he blocked a full toss in the last over and I came down and asked him if there was any danger of him hitting it for four! Seriously, he came out and played with intent and that’s what we had to do in that situation.”

Durham skipper Collingwood said: “I guess the closer you get the more emotions are involved.

“It’s heart-breaking when you get so close and don’t win. It was a monumental finish, and gut-wrenching to lose. I’m very proud of the guys and how they fought in that last innings. It was an unbelievable game of cricket.”