Six wicket victory takes Lancs top of the table
An unbeaten 95-run partnership between Red Rose captain Dane Vilas and Rob Jones took Lancashire through to a six-wicket victory against Worcestershire at Emirates Old Trafford and go the top of the Specsavers County Championship Division Two table.
The pair rescued Lancashire from an early innings wobble of 32-4 with a determined stand to chase down the 126-run target and clinch victory with well over a day to spare at 2.50pm.
Worcestershire could only add five runs to their overnight lead of 120 with Richard Gleeson picking up his third five-wicket haul with 5-37 following his two ‘five-fors’ in last week’s match against Northants.
Joe Leach was the last man out driving Gleeson to James Anderson at deep mid-off and the Worcestershire skipper’s disappointment was compounded by the absence of their first innings five-wicket star bowler Wayne Parnell with a hamstring injury when the visitors took to the field ten minutes later.
But Lancashire made a poor start to their victory quest, losing their first four wickets with only 32 runs on the board.
Haseeb Hameed edged Charlie Morris to slip for 4, Jake Lehmann was lbw for 5 to Ed Barnard’s first delivery, and Leach took two in two balls when Keaton Jennings chopped on for 23 and Liam Livingstone edged his first delivery to Riki Wessels at first slip.
Jones and Vilas defended with determination to halt the slide and the pair slowly built a partnership, adding 27 in 12 overs to reach lunch on 59-4 with a lot work still to be done with 67 more runs required.
The pair continued in similar vein after the break although Vilas broke the shackles with consecutive fours off Leach to post the fifty partnership off 117 balls and bring the target down to 43 runs.
And as well as the visitors bowled they could not dislodge either batsman, Vilas striking a further three boundaries and post his own half-century from 73 balls and victory followed swiftly.
Jones hit the winning runs having made 31 off 101 balls while Vilas finished unbeaten with a fine innings of 60.
Lancashire’s third win from three games brought 20 points and we go top of the table with 63 points, with Worcestershire in second place on 50 and Gloucestershire 3rd on 43.
It is the first time since 1995 that Lancashire have won their first thee Championship matches of the season.
“It was a bit of a grind and a bit of a weird game,” said Rob Jones. “A lot of wickets fell for not many runs but thankfully we got over the line with a great knock from Dane.
“It was a bit of a new ball wicket. Once you got through that period and the hardness went away from the new ball you could look to just play straight, and then look to grind them down.
Jones and Vilas came together with Lancashire struggling early in the innings, and Jones said: “Me and Dane kept saying to each other, just keep going and ride through as much pressure as you can. Then it will become easier later on.
“That’s what happened which was great.
And Jones was only too happy to provide a supporting role to his captain.
“As long as Dane keeps scoring the runs, I’ve just got to keep doing my job at the other end,” he explained.
“A few boundaries came my way, which was great, but it’s all about building partnerships whether you are batting or bowling. It’s about reading the situation and if your partner’s doing well at the other end you’ve got to support him, and get him on strike.
Getting to lunch with the partnership intact was crucial and Jones added: “After lunch we came out with a positive mind-set and once we’d put a couple of bad balls away it just became easier.
“It took the pressure off and the momentum switches.”
“It was nice to be there at the end but ultimately it’s about doing it for the team and getting another win.
“Three wins from three is great and I’m delighted for everyone involved.
“The bowlers have been outstanding in all three games this season. Having an attack like that has been brilliant.”
And Jones is looking forward to a sustained spell of four-day cricket.
“With this batch of Championship games hopefully we can push on, get as many wins as possible, and keep ourselves at the top end of the table.
“Then it makes the job easier towards the back end of the season if we’ve got a fair number of wins under our belt.”
Lancashire now travel to Cheltenham to play Gloucestershire, starting next Monday.
Photos: Barry Mitchell
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