Lancashire win in Champion style!
Lancashire won a thrilling Specsavers County Championship match by 104 runs to round off the home season at Emirates Old Trafford in fine style.
Tom Bailey took 5-41 and 10-119 in the match to help clinch victory with 22 overs to spare on an absorbing final day against Middlesex.
Earlier the new Division Two Champions had put themselves in a strong position after setting Middlesex a victory target of 270 and reducing the visitors to 55-5 shortly after lunch.
But Martin Andersson and James Harris combined to thwart Lancashire through the afternoon before Bailey returned to make the decisive breakthrough.
That brought the season to a close as far as Emirates Old Trafford is concerned with the team presented with the Division Two trophy moments later.
Lancashire travel to Grace Road next week to play Leicestershire in their final match of the campaign aiming for one final win and aiming to go through the Championship season unbeaten for only the fifth time in the club’s history.
They will do so after the completion of an excellent, competitive four-day match.
There was an explosive start to the fourth day with Steven Croft and Matt Parkinson hitting 36 runs inside the first five overs to advance Lancashire’s overnight score rapidly from 289-8.
Parkinson hit two nicely timed drives off Toby Roland-Jones to reach a career-best 14 that was heartily cheered from the home dressing room balcony before the bowler extracted revenge by inducing an edge taken by wicketkeeper John Simpson.
By then Croft had savaged Miguel Cummins for a six and a couple of boundaries as the tall fast bowler leaked 22 runs in two overs.
Croft was last out after contributing an excellent 40, yorked by James Harris, but the momentum was suddenly with Lancashire who had significantly added to their overnight lead of 211 by setting Middlesex a target of 270 runs in 84 overs.
And the visitors endured a start to their innings reminiscent of their first day collapse as Tom Bailey and Graham Onions enjoyed immediate success in reducing their opponents to 3-3 and then a little later 40-4.
It was Bailey who struck first with two wickets in two balls; Nick Gubbins playing no shot to a ball that jagged back to take out middle stump and then Max Holden lbw, beaten by the ball nipping back.
Dawid Malan then bagged a pair after top edging an indeterminate shot to leg off Onions with the ball looping up to Bailey at cover.
Onions finished a fantastic morning for the Red Rose when Nick Gubbins shuffled across his stumps to be lbw for 14 with Middlesex 55-4 at the break.
If that meant the visitors remaining hopes rested around first innings centurion John Simpson, four balls into the afternoon those hopes were dashed when the left handed batsman was beaten by a sharply turning leg break from Parkinson to be lbw for 5 without any addition to the score.
But this absorbing four-day contest was not done yet.
Martin Andersson held up Lancashire’s victory bid with a fine innings, reaching his maiden first-class half century halfway after nearly two hours batting through the afternoon and finding strong support from James Harris.
The pair added 81 from one ball short of 37 overs having battled away for 130 minutes with Harris the man to finally depart after edging behind off Bailey for 38.
Having made the breakthrough the end of the match arrived quickly.
Bailey struck again quickly trapping Toby Roland-Jones lbw for 5 and Cummins caught behind for 9 either side of Parkinson having Sowter taken at slip as Middlesex stumbled to be 154-9.
Victory was clinched with 22 overs left just before 4.30pm when Mahmood bowled Andersson for a career-best 83 with Middlesex 165 all out leaving Lancashire victorious by 104 runs.
Dane Vilas lifted the trophy moments later to let the celebrations begin.
"It's so good to be here in front of the Members,” said Vilas.
“To remain unbeaten (so far) and lift the trophy with a game to go is fantastic.
"We had a great record here (at Emirates Old Trafford) this season. We haven't lost a four-day game here and only lost a few across the whole season in all formats.
"We've ticked the box by become Division Two Champions and going up into the top division. We wanted to go up having built momentum and take a lot of confidence.”
And Vilas’ thoughts have already turned towards next season.
"This is a stepping stone,” he explained. “When we got relegated it was the start of the process and we'll hopefully be pushing for a title again next year.
"It's a work in progress and there are some great teams in Division One so it's going to be a long hard slog.”
And Vilas paid tribute to all of the squad who have knitted together to achieve promotion straight back to the top flight.
"We've had the luxury of having bowlers that can rest and peak at the right times,” he said.
“I don't think one bowler has played seven games this season so we've rotated and put opposition batsmen under pressure.
"The attitude for me has been key - especially in the field. In four-day cricket you field a lot but we have been superb."
Lancashire’s final match of the season starts next Monday against Leicestershire at Grace Road, 10.30am start.
Photos: Barry Mitchell
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