Lancs clinch a sensational four-wicket victory at Southport
Dane Vilas and Josh Bohannon produced a record-breaking partnership to stun Worcestershire and take Lancashire through to a famous four-wicket Specsavers County Championship victory inside three days at Southport & Birkdale CC.
Joining forces with Lancashire on 178-6 and looking a long way off their 314 target, the pair combined to resist the visitors attack through the late afternoon and evening with an unbroken stand of 139 and in the process set new records for both the highest successful run-chase and the highest seventh wicket stand in matches at Southport.
It was a brilliant effort from both skipper Vilas, who made his third century of the season with 107 not out and 21 year-old Bohannon who made an unbeaten 78 playing in just his second first-class game.
And there were important contributions down the batting order with Steven Croft (36) helping Vilas rebuild from a position of 63-4 with a partnership of 58 and Jordan Clark (31) who added 57 runs with Vilas for the sixth wicket.
Vilas and Bohannon then delivered the coup-de-grace with their outstanding partnership.
“It’s incredible,” said Dane Vilas.
“We knew it was going to be tough chasing that on the last day. But it’s really crucial at this stage to get over the line and that’s a massive win for us.
“Getting to fifty was a nice milestone and it was nice to get in. We knew once you get in on the wicket you had to go big. Thankfully it was my day. I knew that I had to kick on and see the boys home.
And Vilas was full of praise for the character shown by the team.
“The team has some great players and guys who have scored runs over countless seasons. We know we have let ourselves down at times, we can’t hide from that.
“We knew we needed to be better but this team, when the questions are raised, the guys stand up. We know that we have underperformed – the bowlers have been incredible – I think we have let them down slightly. We know we need to put the runs on the board to help them out.
"Most important for me was the guys who came in to help me out. In the way that Bohey (Josh Bohannon) came in in only his second game, the maturity was incredible.
"We want to take it one game at a time and play some good cricket. We knew that this game was important because Worcester are very close to us. Now we can hopefully put in good performances the next three games.
“It’s nice that we have a break for T20 Finals Day to take our mind off it.
“We have a big game coming up against Somerset at Taunton and we played really well against them last time.
“It’s perfect (that they like to have spinning pitches). Hopefully it plays into our hands with guys like Keshav (Maharaj) who’s coming off a nine-for against Sri Lanka and a guy like Parky who’s been incredible for us. If they want to go with that we are happy with that.”
The story of the day with Lancashire resuming on 8-0 in their quest to chase down a target of 314 runs was one of early setbacks.
Nightwatchman Toby Lester was run out for 8 from a direct hit by Ed Barnard after attempting a quick single.
Haseeb Hameed struck three boundaries in 6 balls after he had settled in only to receive a good delivery from Barnard that found a bit of extra bounce and the edge of Hameed’s bat on its way to wicketkeeper Cox, ending the opener’s innings on 14. Two balls later the same Barnard-Cox combination did for Rob Jones to leave Lancashire struggling on 47-3.
Alex Davies had struck consecutive boundaries off Dillon Pennington but then got a big top edge pulling the same bowler to be caught by Cox running from behind the stumps to short mid-wicket for 30.
Croft and Vilas rallied with their 58-run partnership either side of lunch, Croft-who made 36-bringing up the Red Rose hundred with a lovely cover drive.
But Josh Tongue produced a beauty of a delivery that the unfortunate Croft did well to edge to Joe Clarke at first slip to leave the score on 121-5.
Back came Lancashire with another fifty partnership, off only 58 balls, between Vilas and Jordan Clark to bring the target down to 136 runs.
Then Clark, who struck five boundaries in his 31, perished when his attempt to hit Ben Twohig for a straight six fell short, Brett D’Oliveira taking the catch at deep mid-off.
At that point Worcestershire were seemingly ahead in the game but Vilas and Bohannon steadily took Lancashire ever nearer their target.
Bohannon took three fours from the first two overs after tea while Vilas was solid as a rock throughout and the pair played with increasing fluency throughout the afternoon and evening session.
Bohannon reached his half-century off 97 balls and also brought up the 100 partnership to take the Red Rose within 35 runs of their target, a fantastic innings for a young player in just his second match.
From that point the end came fairly quickly as the demoralised visitors saw the game go away from them, accompanied by increased amounts of cheering from the partisan Southport crowd.
Vilas struck 15 fours in his 190-ball innings of 107 and it was a quite magnificent innings from the Lancashire captain.
Bohannon finished things with consecutive boundaries off Tongue just before 5.30pm, and Lancashire take 19 points from the match, and great heart in their battle for first division survival during the remaining three games.
Remarkably this was the 11th consecutive game at Southport to end with a win for one of the teams. The last draw was back in 1989 against Northants.
Glen Chapple admitted to a few nerves flying around the dressing room during Vilas’ and Bohannon’s epic effort.
“We needed a win massively in the Championship,” he said. “And a games never over until you’ve got there.
“It was a big chase today and always going to be a tough ask. I think in the last session the nerves started as you realise you’ve got a good chance of winning. At six (wickets) down anything can happen if you lose a wicket especially with a partnership like that.
“I’m really pleased for the boys. They’ve worked hard and maybe they didn’t play perfect cricket early on in the match but to come round with the bat and win the game was an amazing team effort and a fantastic partnership from Josh and Dane.
“Surrey was so close (last week) you couldn’t have asked any more of them. You’re just hoping that you don’t suffer a close defeat again because it’s hard to take.
And Chapple was under no illusion about the task in hand this morning.
“I think at the start of today it was improbable (the win),” he said.
“We needed someone to play exceptionally well, we had contributions from four or five players and two have played absolutely unbelievable knocks there. The lads are delighted and they deserve it. The effort’s been there all along and they’ve got some reward for it today.
“Josh has had a great start (to his career), it was very impressive. He’s a very competitive player, he’s athletic, he’s fast in the field, quick between the wickets and his technique is good as well. He’s got plenty of shots as well. It’s exciting for him and I hope it continues for the rest of the season and he can look forward to a good career.
“Dane’s a top pro. He drives the team well and I’m absolutely delighted for him. He’s got three hundreds for us this year, he’s had two double hundreds since he’s joined us and he’s a really good influence on the team.
“Today he’s been exceptional.”
Reflecting on the season Chapple added:
“It’s been a tough season for various reasons. We’ve had to look to ourselves and see what we can do better. And the lads have had a lot to contend with, injuries and England selections. The team’s been unsettled by that and it’s a tough division. So it’s not what we wanted but this is a fantastic win for us. It gives us a positive outlook on the last three games.
“Worcester are in the same part of the table as us, two of the games coming up are as well and they are vital games.
“But there are teams all around the country struggling. There’s only two teams who are flying and playing solid cricket so there will be a few teams in the shake-up.
“The problem picking a team here (Southport) is the seamers are massively in the game. It does spin but you have to get to the point in the game where it spins and we didn’t.
“So we picked the right team and it’s a tough one on Parky. He’s had a great season and it’s not slight on him. For a 21 year-old he’s done fantastically well. Sometimes as a spinner you have to take it. He’ll play an important part for us in the rest of the season.”
Keshav Maharaj made his debut for Lancashire in this match, and on his signing Chapple said:
“Spinners can play an important part at the back end of the season. He’s a world class spinner. Parky is a quality spinner and he’s still learning, we didn’t want all the pressure of winning matches to fall on his shoulders.
"Also when you look at signing players at this stage of the season, you are limited. We didn’t want to go for an ‘okay’ player, we wanted to go for a proven Test performer and we’ve got that. They can play together. Some of the places we are going to are places that prefer to play spinning pitches, and it gives us options either way depending on what they produce."
Looking at the three remaining games Chapple said:
“We know that in every game we’ve competed. We’ve lost games through poor small sessions of play. We know we can go to these teams and match them. We just need to get over the line.”
Photos: Simon Pendrigh