Lancashire seal ten-wicket victory to go top of Division One
Lancashire raced to victory before lunch sealing a ten-wicket victory that takes them, for the moment, top of the Division One table with one game to play.
It was another brilliant effort from the Red Rose bowlers who took the six remaining Somerset wickets for the addition of 88 runs to leave a victory target of just 32, easily knocked off by George Balderson and Alex Davies.
With the other two Division One games delayed by rain it is likely the final permutations will not become clear until tomorrow but Lancashire appear likely to be one of three contenders for the title going into the last match against Hampshire at Liverpool, starting next Tuesday.
Lancashire have 54.5 points, Notts 52 points, Hampshire 42.5, Yorkshire 41.5, Warwicks 39, Somerset 26.5 (these include bonus points gained from current matches in progress).
Play today started in dull, cloudy conditions with the floodlights in operation and Somerset on 226-4 in their second innings trailing by 57 runs.
James Hildreth and Lewis Goldsworthy carefully played themselves in before both fell in quick succession to Tom Bailey.
Lancashire’s leading wicket-taker in the Championship took his tally to 41 wickets as Hildreth mistimed a pull and top edged a high catch to Jack Blatherwick at point for 26 and Goldsworthy was lbw for 21 after being beaten by a swinging delivery.
It was just the start Lancashire would have hoped for and despite a 24-ball 23 by Roelof van der Merwe the bowlers were not to be denied.
Van der Merwe edged Balderson to first slip where Luke Wells grabbed a sharp chance and Marchant de Lange edged Blatherwick to Rob Jones at second slip.
Balderson bowled Jack Brooks for 15 and Blatherwick took the final wicket as Ned Leonard edged down the leg side with Steve Davies left unbeaten on 22 and Somerset 314 all out.
It has been a great bowling performance throughout the match with the side missing injured bowling trio Saqib Mahmood, Luke Wood and Richard Gleeson.
Balderson and Davies then clinched victory at 12.40pm with 32 runs off six overs, Lancashire’s 999th in the County Championship and with more than a day to spare.
A buoyant Dane Vilas said afterwards: "This was a must-win game for both teams if either of us were to keep title hopes alive and I am delighted with the way we played and the result.
“To be put in and see the first innings score we got was incredible. The batters came out with some real intent and played beautifully, especially Wellsy getting that run-a-ball hundred.
“He’s been fantastic and to have guy with his quality coming through, averaging in the high thirties and with nearly twenty centuries, is great. He’s only 30 and still has a lot to give.
“He’s proved that in a big game for us. Hopefully he can kick on a get a few more hundreds for us.
“And we put in an equally good effort in with the ball.
“We’ve got good depth to our squad and it’s been proved in games like this when you need all your squad members coming through.”
“The way Jack (Blatherwick) came in for only his second game with his energy was amazing. We’ve got guys pushing and are desperately keen to be in the mix (for selection).
"It (the win) sets up an exciting final game against Hampshire next week and we can go into it with momentum from this performance.
"Other than losing the toss, everything went well for us, particularly after a difficult time against Notts last week. We needed to turn our form around after that and did just that, which is fantastic."
“We’ve now got a big game coming up next week.”
Luke Wells was equally thrilled to have clinched an important victory.
“Obviously I was really pleased,” said Lancashire’s first innings centurion, who was just as delighted with his contribution with the ball.
“To get those wickets last night when Somerset were flying was great,” he acknowledged.
“I didn’t really expect that to happen but sometimes a bowler like me can break partnerships and happily enough that happened.
“They had took to Parky who normally holds up an end and takes wickets and he’s bowled beautifully all year.
“I’ve got a few variations; leg-spinner, off-spinner and a low full toss,” he grinned.
“And thankfully it worked.”
“I think we’ve played unbelievable four-day cricket all year. We’ve taken a lot of them down to the last day, the last hour, playing on proper pitches and getting the ball to reverse, swing and spin.
“We’ve had a bit of squad rotation too, but all the guys who have come in have stepped up.
“So I think we deserve to be where we are. It’s going to be tight if results elsewhere go our way and we’ve given ourselves a good chance.”
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