Lancashire are on the cusp of winning their first County Championship in TEN years after a thrilling one-wicket win over Hampshire
- Lancashire claimed a thrilling one-wicket win over title rivals Hampshire
- They are on the brink of a first provincial championship crown in 10 years
- Warwickshire could take the title with victory over Somerset on day four
Rarely could there have been such a thing. Not in the County Championship’s 131-year history. And probably not introduced in any format since cricket’s perpetual desperation to appeal to a modern audience. This was a sublime, unbeatable sports drama.
The bare facts are that Lancashire is on the brink of a famous championship win after terminating Hampshire’s title hopes and pressuring Warwickshire to somehow force Friday’s win against a challenging Somerset in Edgbaston.
But this was so much more than that. It was almost an unbelievable win for Hampshire with Mason Crane, the leg spinner who tossed England after a chafing Test debut, throwing them within a whisker of the title when all hopes seemed to have vanished.
Lancashire took a thrilling one-wicket victory over title rivals Hampshire on Thursday
Still, after all, it was Lancashire’s day and in all likelihood their championship when Dane Vilas, who fell before scoring by substitute keeper Lewis McManus, hit the winning runs by just one wicket in a low scoring thriller in this county outpost.
Lancashire almost threw it away, crashing from 177 for five in pursuit of 196 in a three day seesaw game to 194 for nine when Crane took his fifth wicket to send Jack Blatherwick back just after taking out Tom Bailey with a direct hit.
At that stage, even the prospect of a draw that would have resulted in Nottinghamshire, whose chances in this four-county last-round match appeared to have been extinguished on Wednesday, was very much back in the equation.
There could rarely have been such a thing. Not in the Championship’s 131-year history
As a result, they are about to claim their first County Championship crown in 10 years
But with two more needed after last man Matt Parkinson kept two balls away from his fellow leg spinner, Lancashire captain Vilas swept Liam Dawson to the limit.
Cue roars from a Liverpool crowd who had loudly praised every run and joyous celebrations from Lancashire and their supporters who could not have been better, even if the title had already been won.
“I was so focused on making sure we got the win because I knew how much it meant to the players looking up,” said Vilas, who finished undefeated at 47. “Had I been in the same position as them, I chewed my nails off.
“To put ourselves in a position where we can win the championship is huge and you don’t get these opportunities very often. I am honored and privileged to have been able to win us over.”
It was almost an incredible win for Hampshire with Mason Crane (center) bowling them within a whisker of the title when all hopes seemed to have vanished
Yet in the end it was Lancashire’s day as Dane Vilas (above) hit the winning runs with just one wicket left in a low scoring thriller in this county outpost
How cruel this was for Hampshire, who last week aimed for a T20 Blast and Championship double this time but ended up empty-handed. But they had their chances to wrap it up without resorting to events in Edgbaston on Friday.
Poor McManus, who replaced the injured Tom Alsop behind the stumps, also stood still when George Balderson cut a cut between him and released James Vince for the first time. And Alex Davies, who got Lancashire off to a flying start before leaving for Warwickshire after Bailey completed the Hampshire innings, was dropped badly by Brad Wheal.
But it was perhaps the belated introduction of Crane, who came back from that Test debut in Sydney three years ago when he won one for 193 against Australia, to the 36th over of the Lancashire innings that proved the most precious.
Hpwever, Warwickshire could take the title with victory over Somerset on day four
He took the wicket from Josh Bohannon with his third ball and finished with five for 41 before time ran out to claim a decisive sixth wicket. “This really hurts,” Crane said. “It can be a cruel game at times. We were a few centimeters away from winning the championship and that’s hard to accept at the moment.”
Now Lancashire will eagerly follow the progress of Warwickshire, who have much to do to help the Red Rose County win their first title since triumphing 10 years ago when they spent their entire home season so productively in Liverpool.
Aigburth has proved to be the happiest hunting ground, with Old Trafford unavailable this week due to a concert by the Courteeners, again for them.