Nottinghamshire play themselves into pole position
Nottinghamshire defeated Lancashire by 102 runs to take pole position in the LV=Insurance County Championship with two matches of the season to go.
They bowled out Lancashire, who nominally needed 444 for the win that would have put them top of the Division One table, for 341 with four wickets for Dane Paterson and three for Luke Fletcher, although it took them until deep into the final session to do so.
As Lancashire attempted to salvage a draw, first George Balderson defied Nottinghamshire’s bowlers for more than five hours in a 77-run vigil.
Then Danny Lamb (68 not out ) and Tom Bailey (52) staged a defiant stand of 108 - a ninth-wicket record for Lancashire against Nottinghamshire - that spanned more than two hours.
But ultimately Lancashire’s resistance ran out and Brett Hutton struck the winning blow when he had Saqib Mahmood, batting with a runner after sustaining an injury while bowling earlier in the match, caught at short leg with 11.5 overs of the match remaining.
Nottinghamshire, who were relegated two years ago but spared playing in Division Two when the 2020 season was cancelled due to the Covid pandemic, now have a real chance to emerge from this season’s format as champions.
They top the current six-team Division One with 49 points, with Hampshire and Yorkshire both on 38.5.
Lancashire, 115 for one overnight, lost three wickets in the morning session. Paterson lured Luke Wells to nick one that was well caught by a diving Tom Moores, and had Josh Bohannon leg before Hutton removed Dane Vilas with a full, straight delivery.
After Rob Jones helped Balderson absorb another 25 overs, the second new ball began to look key, yet a breakthrough came with the last delivery with the old one as Paterson took a brilliant, one-handed catch low to his right at midwicket, as Balderson, suddenly confronted with a ball dropped in short by left-arm spinner Liam Patterson-White, tried to whip it away for four.
With the new ball, Jones was missed from Fletcher’s fourth delivery, dropped on 26 by a diving Moores, but it was soon forgotten as three wickets fell in the space of 10 balls.
Fletcher bowled Jones off an inside edge, Paterson returned to have Steven Croft caught at second slip and Fletcher fired one in to have George Lavelle leg before without scoring.
Yet Lamb and Bailey gamely mounted another rearguard, defying all Patterson-White’s attempts to induce an error and forcing captain Steven Mullaney to go back to his seamers in the hope of forcing the issue.
With a maximum 16.4 overs remaining, Paterson returned to bowl Bailey middle stump with one that kept low, before Hutton delivered the winning moment as Mahmood flicked the ball off his hips straight into the hands of Ben Slater at short leg.