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Jon Culley at Aigburth
August 4, 2011
Lancashire 189 and 380 drew with Warwickshire 280 and 217 for 8
Lancashire had not drawn at Liverpool in nine matches since 2004 and only once previously this season, the latter fact a consequence of increasing the value of a win to 16 points and flat pitches becoming a rare commodity.
Glen Chapple, the Lancashire captain and a cricketer reassuringly respectful of traditional values, mused recently that in his view there was merit still in a hard-earned draw, so it was a little ironic that he should find himself on the wrong end of one here as Warwickshire ultimately achieved their objective in a gripping finale.
Warwickshire were aided by the weather, which restricted play to 31 balls before 1.15pm and cost another half-hour in the afternoon. But they still wound up facing 68 overs on a turning pitch and against arguably the best exponent of such conditions on the circuit in Gary Keedy, Lancashire's veteran left-arm spinner.
In the end it was captivatingly close as Warwickshire, who had seemed home and dry at 217 for 6 entering what they thought was the last over, lost two wickets in the space of five balls to part-time offspinner Steven Croft, then breathed deep sighs of relief only to be told there was time within the limits of the mandatory last hour for another over.
These six balls offered a picture of Tim Ambrose, who was Warwickshire's hero, in the end, with an unbeaten 66, surrounded by a cluster of eight close fielders as well as wicketkeeper Gareth Cross as Keedy wheeled in. Ambrose cannot have had many similar experiences but after two blocks, a sweep, a rejected lbw appeal, a leg-side leave and another soft-handed dead bat, it was all over and after two hours and 17 minutes the former England wicketkeeper had survived.
It was a draw deserved, moreover, because Warwickshire had been in no way negative, at least until it was reasonable to be so. Presented at the start with potentially 75 overs to chase 280 and win the match themselves, they sent in Neil Carter, their one-day opener, to take on the new ball, and he and Varun Chopra could not have been more purposeful.
They rattled along at almost five an over without giving Lancashire any encouragement, but their ambitions were necessarily scaled down after they lost four wickets for 20 runs in seven overs.
Carter edged Saj Mahmood to Tom Smith at second slip and then Keedy, with his fourth ball, took a diving return catch to dismiss Will Porterfield. Chopra perished caught behind to an ugly slash at Kyle Hogg out of keeping with the rest of his innings and then Keedy claimed a second scalp when Jim Troughton flicked one round the corner to leg slip.
Now Warwickshire needed to dig in and tough it out and that it took Lancashire another 27 overs to make more inroads was down to Ambrose and Laurie Evans, who does not have the benefit of his colleague's experience yet who showed exceptional application and concentration for almost two hours before edging Hogg to second slip.
When Rikki Clarke - thwarted earlier in his bid to take the world record for catches in an innings when Troughton got under Hogg's skier off Boyd Rankin - fell for 12 at 210 for 6, caught at slip as Keedy took his third wicket, six overs remained.
Time looked to be on Warwickshire's side and ultimately was, although not until Croft had bowled both Chris Woakes and Jeetan Patel and caused some serious apprehension on the visiting balcony.
With Somerset securing a third straight win, the race for the title is splendidly poised, with Warwickshire in a potentially strong position still by virtue of their game in hand, even though the result pushes them back into fourth place. Any one of the top four could be champions, which Lancashire coach Peter Moores acknowledged afterwards.
"It is set well for a good run-in," he said. "It depends on who holds their nerve and who has players in form at the right time. This was a great game of cricket. Both sides got stuck in and had opportunities to win it and it is a shame we didn't have another session.
"Somerset are coming up on the blind side, which we always thought they would. I like playing against sides who are in the title race with us and I'm pleased we have got Somerset in the last game of the season because we can control that fixture.
"We have been up there all the way through, we have shown a lot of fight and character and found ways to win games. I don't think we need to win all four of our remaining games. If we won two we would be in with a shout, three and we would be in with a very big chance and if we do win all four we will definitely win it.
"Normally if you win 10 in a season that would be enough and often it would be less than that. This year it is unique because there are so many teams involved."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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