Openers excel again as Lancashire press ahead for victory
Alex Davies and Keaton Jennings put on a century and George Balderson scores his first half-century to set up a final day push for the win
An opening stand of 138 between Alex Davies and Keaton Jennings allowed Lancashire to take control of this last Bob Willis Trophy group game after Derbyshire's hopes of reaching the final all but disappeared on a frantic day for the statisticians.
Lancashire finished the day on 312/6 with a lead of 336 runs after a back-and-forth day in Liverpool.
The Red Rose openers dominated the afternoon, reaching their century partnership in the 20th over of Lancashire's second innings when Jennings lofted a six over Matt Critchley's head. It was their third opening stand of 100 or more in as many Bob Willis Trophy games.
Davies was the main aggressor, hitting four boundaries off one Dustin Melton over, before driving straight to Anuj Dal off Critchley for 86.
Jennings eased his way to his own half-century off 102 balls and he and Josh Bohannon had taken Lancashire beyond 200 when the England opener toe-ended a reverse sweep straight to Billy Godleman at midwicket for 81.
Despite a Derbyshire fightback in the final session, a maiden First-Class half-century by George Balderson then put Lancashire back in control of proceedings.
But the real drama of the day occurred in the morning session as Derbyshire staged a dramatic recovery in their quest to make 200 and gain a batting bonus point on their way to registering the win which would take them to Lord's.
At 17/4 and 61/7 it looked an unlikely prospect, until a brilliant eighth wicket stand of 102 between Harvey Hosein and Mattie McKiernen took the visitors to 163 and within sight of their improbable target.
It was not to be. McKiernen fell LBW to George Burrows for 31, before Hosein became teenage spinner Jack Morley's maiden first class victim when he feathered one behind for an outstanding 84 off 226 balls.
That bought the last pair of Sam Conners and Dustin Melton to the crease with a huge six from the latter off Danny Lamb raising hopes that the impossible was possible.
17 precious runs were compiled for the tenth wicket with the score on 195 when Melton went for one shot too many and was bowled by Lamb who finished with 4/60.
Derbyshire's heroic failure overshadowed the remainder of the day with the general agreement being that a win coupled with the bonus point was essential to the visitors' chances of qualifying until news filtered through that due to the abandonment of Gloucestershire's game with Northants, qualifying could be decided on net run rate rather than wins in the competition, meaning Essex were not yet guaranteed the final place they thought was confirmed. Confused? So was everyone.
This all meant nothing to the Lancashire batsmen of course as they looked to score quick runs before the close with varying degrees of success.
Rob Jones was caught at first slip by Madsen off Critchley for five followed by Bohannon who edged to the same fielder off Luis Reece for 35.
When Dane Vilas drove Critchley to Reece at mid on for 10, to hand the spinner his fourth wicket of the innings, Lancashire had suddenly lost three wickets for 16 runs and Derbyshire's faint hopes of victory remained.
There was still time for debutant George Lavelle to be trapped in front by Reece for seven but teenager Balderson racked up his maiden half-century.
Batting at better than a run-a-ball, Balderson launched three huge sixes down the ground - the last off the final ball of the day - to help his side back into a commanding position alongside Lamb (16no) taking Lancashire to a lead of 336 by the close.