A captain’s innings of 74 not out from Dane Vilas allowed Lancashire to wrest control of a compelling Specsavers County Championship Division Two contest with Durham on a dramatic third day at Sedbergh School.
By the close of play, Lancashire were 260 runs ahead of their opponents with three wickets remaining, but only after Durham had proved stubborn foes throughout three entertaining sessions during which they frequently looked to have stolen the advantage away from the hosts.
The day had begun with a nervous moment for all fans of English cricket, when James Anderson was forced to leave the field after the England bowler had pulled up with what appeared to be a leg injury.
Anderson left the field just eight balls into his first spell and had to be replaced in the attack by Josh Bohannon who finished the over after the 36-year-old had attempted to run in to bowl on three occasions before handing the ball to the umpire and departing the play unaided but clutching his right calf.
Later reports confirmed Anderson had felt a tightness in his calf and would not bowl again in the game leaving Lancashire at a distinct disadvantage knowing they would have to dismiss their opponents on the final day to secure a win.
The incident compounded a poor first 90 minutes for Lancashire who were unable to make any serious inroads into the Durham batting order despite taking the new bowl on a sunny morning in Cumbria.
Nathan Rimmington and Liam Trevaskis held firm for much of the morning session, taking Durham’s overnight score from 199 for 5 to 263, before the latter edged Graham Onions behind to Dane Vilas for 38.
The dismissal sparked a revival from Lancashire, who proceeded to take three quick wickets as Onions accounted for both Ned Eckersley lbw for three and Rimmington trapped in front for a well-made 53.
Ben Raine was next, edging to Steven Croft at slip for five, meaning Durham had lost two wickets on the same score for the second time in the innings.
Onions claimed his fifth wicket, to finish with 5-93 and when Chris Rushworth became the last man out, edging to Vilas for six, Durham were all out for 281 having lost their last five wickets for 18 runs and conceding a lead of 56 runs.
Durham fought back impressively after lunch to turn the game on its head and Lancashire quickly found themselves in trouble when Chris Rushworth had Keaton Jennings caught behind first ball of the innings, before Haseeb Hameed edged to Cameron Bancroft three balls later.
With the score 0 for 2 off just one over, some serious rebuilding was needed and Alex Davies and Liam Livingstone set about the task with some degree of assurance.
The pair were one short of a half-century partnership when Davies misjudged a cramped pull shot and was caught on the leg side boundary by Gareth Harte for 15 off the bowling of Nathan Rimmington.
51 for 3 quickly became 55 for 4 as Livingstone edged Sam Raine to Bancroft for 35 with the Red Rose’s chances of victory receiving a further blow when Rob Jones was run out for five attempting a second run to Liam Trevaskis’ accurate throw from the deep.
Vilas and Steven Croft steered the hosts to tea with the South African continuing his good form with the bat in this game with some attractive shots as he reached 27 unbeaten with Croft 20 not out at the other end.
The pair went on to dominate much of the evening session, compiling a sixth wicket partnership of 87 before Croft was bowled for 35 by Rimmington with a delivery that kept low.
Josh Bohannon joined his captain at the crease and offered valuable support as they made their way past a lead of 200 until the young all-rounder feathered a cut behind off Brydon Carse for 23 with the score 174 for seven.
Vilas, who reached his second half-century of the game from 76 balls with seven fours, survived a nasty blow to his forearm from Rimmington towards the close, but recovered to finish unbeaten at the end of play with Saqib Mahmood alongside him on 11 not out.