Lancashire v Nottinghamshire, Old Trafford, 3rd day May 4, 2012

Notts close in despite Anderson haul

Jon Culley at Old Trafford

Lancashire 146 and 39 for 5 (Broad 2-22, Adams 2-3) need another 289 runs to beat Nottinghamshire 169 and 304 (Lumb 62, Read 54, Anderson 5-82)

Having taken 77 years to add a ninth County Championship to the eight they had won outright up to 1934, Lancashire are in danger of seeing their hard-earned spoils slip through their grasp even before summer is ushered in.

With a vicious wind howling around the pillars of the half-built stands at the relocated Statham End, the fielders retreated to the shelter of the temporary dressing rooms amid fading light with Lancashire almost certainly facing a third defeat in four matches.

Chasing a target of 328 to win, secured when James Anderson took his fourth and fifth wickets with consecutive balls, Lancashire slumped to 38 for 5, to which they had added one more run when the umpires, Rob Bailey and Steve Gale, decided it was too grim to continue. It was a judgement on the hue of the sky above but it might have been about the state of Lancashire's cricket.

They have endured a wretched match, one way or another, from the injury to Tom Smith and the afflictions of Anderson, interspersed with some untimely dropped catches and bedevilled by an opposing team whose application and skill levels have largely outstripped theirs.

Anderson, in the event, set them a good example, defying the lingering symptoms of the cold virus that laid him low on Thursday with a performance that was decent enough, in the circumstances, to suggest that England, for whom selector James Whitaker was in attendance, will conclude that this one match is enough for him to be ready for the Test series against the West Indies.

He had looked ready on Wednesday, in truth, when the 17 overs he bowled either side of a trip to hospital with a damaged thumb deserved better than a wicketless analysis. As so often is the way, he bowled less well with greater success in Nottinghamshire's second innings, even if the figures suggest the opposite.

Not that there was any surprise in that. Having felt so ill on Thursday that he could bowl only one over he was hardly likely to be feeling at his best - only "70 per cent", in his words, and craving sleep and tomato soup. He thanked Mick Newell and Chris Read in the Nottinghamshire hierarchy for allowing him to bowl on the third morning, after it had emerged that the umpires had been wrong to tell him on Thursday that his requirement to field for as long a time period as he had been off the field would be cancelled at the start of a new day.

Newell, Nottinghamshire's director of cricket, said it had been "the right thing to do" even though he could have insisted that the letter of the law be applied.

"It was only fair because he had made the effort to get on the field on Thursday afternoon, thinking that he needed to be out there for an hour and a half so he could bowl first thing today," Newell said. "It wasn't his fault that the umpires told him he could go off again. It was an honest mistake and we thought that letting him bowl was the right thing to do."

The deliveries he produced to dismiss Michael Lumb and Chris Read, which denied Nottinghamshire an even stronger position, might have given them cause to regret their generosity. Anderson had his revenge, too, on Graeme Swann, after his first-ball dismissal to the England off-spinner. But these were rare moments of encouragement for Lancashire.

They dropped catches at important moments, or rather Paul Horton did, at first slip, when he put down Read on 29 off Glen Chapple and James Taylor on 38 off Anderson. It would be unfair to blame one player, though. In reality, they were denied by the application shown by Read, Michael Lumb and the Nottinghamshire middle order in general on a pitch that rewarded hard graft, significantly against the second new ball, which they not only survived for an hour after lunch until Taylor was caught behind off Simon Kerrigan, but added 70 runs in doing so in a partnership for the fifth wicket worth a critical 100 runs.

Lancashire looked powerless to change the way the match was drifting away from them and you wondered whether Andre Adams, whose magical bowling has brought him nine wickets in the match so far, had a point the other day when, intriguingly, he suggested, mindful of Nottinghamshire's failure to follow up on their 2010 Championship-winning season, that to defend a title "you have to know how you won it".

Adams, who finished with 7 for 32 in the first innings, took two more on Friday, bowling Stephen Moore, defending on the front foot, with an inswinger preceded by two outswingers, before having Steven Croft caught behind with another that went away.

It followed a significantly improved opening spell from Stuart Broad, another in pre-Test warm-up mode, who went for 60 runs from 14 wicketless overs in the first innings but struck with his second ball to have the unfortunate Horton caught at second slip and then pinned Karl Brown in the crease. Swann, the third of the Test regulars on duty, claimed the key wicket of Ashwell Prince for the second time in the match.