Lancs avoid penalty after spinning to defeat
Worcestershire 291 (Scott 106, Kerrigan 4-117) and 139 (Croft 6-41) beat Lancashire 162 (Ali 6-67) and 63 (Ali 6-29) by 205 runs
Lancashire have escaped with no sanctions from an ECB pitch panel despite the pitch at Old Trafford being rated as poor following a humiliating defeat by Worcestershire that threatens their Division One status. The three-man panel was convened after their defeat inside three days, when 34 of the 40 wickets in the match fell to spin.
The panel, headed by Chris Wood, the chairman of the pitch liaison panel, sat at Old Trafford after Worcestershire dismissed Lancashire for 63 - their lowest total at the ground for 49 years - with Moeen Ali's offspin claiming career-best figures of 6 for 29 and match figures of 12 for 96. It was only the second Championship match played since the square was turned 90 degrees as part of Old Trafford's redevelopment and although the pitch was rated as poor, which can result in an eight-point penalty, the ECB has been lenient because the bad weather hindered Lancashire's preparation.
"There was no skulduggery at all in that we probably would have stuck them in with four seamers in our side had we won the toss and we sent Gary Keedy off to play with the seconds," said Mike Watkinson, Lancashire's director of cricket. "This is a new pitch on the extra square. The Ashes pitch will be played, as was the one-day international, on one of the wickets that was common to both directions and used over many years."
Lancashire remain confident of being ready for next year's Ashes Test but, for now, the defeat could prove most costly of all to their ambitions of avoiding relegation. They fought back strongly on the third morning and dismissed Worcestershire for 135, with Steven Croft's offspin claiming 6 for 41 to finish with match figures of 9 for 105.
On a wearing pitch that had given encouragement to the spinners since the opening morning, Vikram Solanki was the only batsman to demonstrate the necessary technique to survive. Using all the experience of his 20 years at Worcestershire, which is due to end this summer when he moves to Surrey, Solanki patiently accumulated runs and was the only batsman to score a half-century in the day.
His 50, scored in over two hours at the crease, allowed Worcestershire to stretch their lead to 268, which was always likely to be beyond a Lancashire batting line-up which struggled noticeably against spin during a feeble first-innings effort. Indeed, they claimed two bonus wickets with Alan Richardson, their experienced seamer, dismissing Lancashire openers Stephen Moore and Paul Horton within the first six overs.
Once Ali, bowling unchanged from the Pavilion End, entered the fray in the eighth over, the template for Lancashire's demise was set. Standing at 6ft tall, the extra bounce he generated caused problems throughout the innings and he struck with his third, eighth and 14th balls to remove Karl Brown, Croft and Ashwell Prince to catches close to the wicket.
Gareth Cross, the only Lancashire batsman to reach double figures, was caught in the deep trying to be aggressive against Ali, the only batsman not to be taken by close fielders. But for the Manchester sky-line, the disinterested builders and the obvious difference in temperature, you could have been watching a game anywhere on the subcontinent.
Shaaiq Choudhry, who offered more of a threat with his flatter delivery from the Statham End, chipped in with two quick wickets but it was fitting that Ali claimed the last wicket when Kyle Hogg was stumped attempting to charge. It secured Worcestershire's first Championship victory of the season and their first since beating Lancashire at New Road last summer, 11 matches ago - a win that ensured they avoided relegation.
Heavily beaten by Nottinghamshire in their only other Championship match at Old Trafford this summer, this was Lancashire's lowest total at their headquarters since being dismissed for 62 by Somerset in 1963. "It is really disappointing because it was a big game for us and it hasn't gone as we would have liked at all, but we have to take it on the chin - we were well beaten," Lancashire coach Peter Moores said.