Middlesex v Lancashire, Lord's 4th day September 7, 2012

Relegation completes Lancashire fall

Vithushan Ehantharajah at Lord's

Middlesex 446 and 305 for 9 (Rogers 86, Malan 95, Chapple 5-47) beat Lancashire 448 (Brown 78, Prince 71) and 194 (Crook 5-48, 4-72) by 109 runs

Lancashire will finish a season they entered as defending champions with relegation to Division Two, after Surrey beat Nottinghamshire on the final day at The Oval. A Lancashire win at Lord's would have set up an intriguing last game of the season against Surrey, but they were bowled out attempting a last-ditch run chase to seal their fate.

A Middlesex declaration going into tea meant Lancashire had to chase 304 runs in 39 overs. Tom Smith and Ashwell Prince began the chase with purpose, before Karl Brown and Steven Croft carried on the fight once they had departed. However, Lancashire were always going to struggle with the rate and, when they fell, the rest soon followed, with former Lancashire seamer Steven Crook claiming his best first-class figures of 5 for 48. In the end, Lancashire fell 109 runs short of living to fight another day.

The head coach, Peter Moores, was heralded for his work in securing Lancashire's first outright Championship title in 77 years and he was understandably disheartened by the way their 2012 campaign will end - potentially with only one victory to their name.

"We went in with the purpose of defending our title, but we were behind the eight-ball after two games," he told ESPNcricinfo. "We didn't pick up any momentum at all until our win against Durham but we just couldn't kick on."

"One of the challenges of our four-day game has been that it's not been easy to get many wins - five of our last six games have been rain affected. You're playing for points then. That's fine if you've already got some wins under your belt, but we needed results in the last half of the season, and we've not been able to get any. We've got to identify what we've done wrong this year and work at it during the off-season. It's not going to be easy, but it needs to be done."

Moores was also keen to stress that Lancashire would stick to their philosophy of giving young and local talent a chance, rather than looking to sign players in a bid to come straight back up.

"We made a strong call to play local lads, push them through and challenge them. With young players you get a bit of inconsistency, but you've got to take that on the chin. We've seen some results from our ethos that we're proud of - Simon Kerrigan's taken over 50 wickets this year, Karl Brown and Luke Procter are starting to really develop as batsmen, and Tom Smith is maturing into a leader. They'll be disappointed, but they need to deal with the elation of a Championship win and sadness of relegation in the same manner.

"If anything, last year's Championship win came a bit earlier than we thought - we picked up wins and momentum early on, and were able to hold on to that. But it shows the fragility of winning. It's not easy to win a County Championship. At times this year we've let ourselves down."

Captain Glen Chapple, who finished with impressive match figures of 10 for 133 was at a loss to explain the events that led to their demise.

"We've known we've been in a fight for virtually half the season," he said. "It's a reality that we've been facing, but I always felt we had the quality to pull through. It's disappointing for us as a club to go down, and for the fans.

"I think there are a lot of small things that have gone wrong this season and I think we've got to be careful and look at the things we can actually change, rather than beat ourselves up about the things we can't."

"We can definitely look ourselves in the mirror and know we've put the effort in - at times we've just lacked the quality to win those tight battles. Today we've gone toe-to-toe with a good team and there just wasn't enough time for us to create a genuine winning position."

One crumb of comfort for Lancashire and their fans is the defiant rebuttal of any retirement talk surrounding their captain, and the best bowler on show at Lord's this week. As the players emerged for lunch, Chapple was given a guard of honour. Standing ovations as he left the pitch at the close of Middlesex's innings, and then his own, followed, leading to whispers of an imminent departure from the game.

"The lads were just trying to keep their spirits up - a bit of banter, that's all. I'm not jacking this in any time soon - I'll be back next year, don't worry about that."

For Middlesex, the win pushed them up to second, though their season is now finished and results elsewhere will determine where they end up. On a day like this, it is easy to forget they have enjoyed a good season back in Division One themselves and the performances of of Toby Roland-Jones and Tim Murtagh, as well as the signing of Chris Rogers for a further two years, gives them a solid base to push for silverware next year.

In the morning, Rogers and Dawid Malan had picked up where they left off on Thursday, bringing up their century partnership in the fourth over of the day. Rogers looked to be on for a century of his own but, as with many of the batsmen who have got in on this pitch, he failed to make it count, ending the season with three centuries in the Championship and more than 1,000 first-class runs for an impressive sixth time in seven years.

Chapple did what he could, backing his spinners with four men around the bat, before taking the new ball and sharing it with Ajmal Shahzad. Malan used the pace of Shahzad and the hardness of the new cherry to sprint along to 95 but a wild hack outside off-stump to Chapple gave Cross his sixth catch of the match. One brought two, as Shahzad uprooted John Simpson's stumps, and Chapple then saw to Crook and Gareth Berg.

After the latter's dismissal, with the score on 289 for 8, Middlesex seemingly declared. The players and umpires walked towards the pavilion - some even made it inside - before they turned back around and returned to the middle, this time accompanied by Ravi Patel, the next man in. It turned out there were some crossed wires between the on-field players and the Middlesex balcony, and the umpires agreed to overlook it.

Patel lasted one ball, as Chapple claimed a second five-for. Three overs and 14 runs later, after much head scratching and looks towards the dressing room, Middlesex declared and Lancashire faced another tense run chase on the fourth afternoon to try and prolong their stay in Division One for another week. But Lord's '12 will not be remembered like Taunton '11 and Lancashire's loss is Surrey's gain.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • mark on September 10, 2012, 12:12 GMT

    Agree with a lot of the comments about the Lancs batting, but am a bit more hopeful than some. Horton has done it in the past, no reason he can't do it again. Brown and Proctor have played too often - especially Browny - this season but there is talent enough for them to improve. Croft's a major worry - for 2 years he has not scored enough runs in the 4 day games and he may well not improve. Moore, quite simply, has been a disaster. Not sure when his contract is up, but it can't be soon enough. And we've been luckt in one sense this year as we've had Pricnce for a full season, our struggles would have been magnified without him. Er, so that's only relative optimism, I guess!

  • Jem on September 8, 2012, 23:53 GMT

    @DesPlatt - I'm afraid I can't agree, mate. You can't compare the Lancs openers' average stand against their competitors in the same match for the reason you made yourself - the opposition had to deal with Chapple, (who yet again proved himself to be as good as any opening bowler in the First Division) -and take no account of what their openers did in every other match. What's more important is to look at the season's averages of the top 5 Lancs batsmen compared to the others in the league - and with the exception of Prince, no-one in the Lancs top order averaged over 32. Brown averaged about 25 and Moore just over 16... Those scores will get you relegated every season! Lancs need at least two more high quality top order batsmen or I agree - they'll struggle to get back promoted. Shazad was disappointing sadly but Peter Moores can't be held at fault - like any manager, he is only as good as his players - and last year he rung every drop out of them. The county must buy some quality!

  • Nicholas on September 8, 2012, 13:52 GMT

    Lancashire are bringing forward local talent .... Then that would explain why Scouser Ian Cockbain is topping the batting averages for Gloucestershire!! Lancs. can hardly say they weren't aware of him, when his dad played for the club.

  • Des on September 8, 2012, 13:28 GMT

    Freddy for Prime Minister, agree with much of what you said but not about the openers. I produced figures to show that they consistently outperformed the opposition openers all season despite the fact that we won the toss so rarely in most testing conditions. The openers averaged 40; the opposition openers averaged 26. Yes some of that was due to Chapple and Hogg but any cricket comparison stats are distorted by not playing against your own players.

    I never wanted Peter Moores as coach but had to suspend disbelief after last year. You have to say after 4 years, however that the serial under performers like Saj and Newby just haven't developed under him and the talented Shazad seems to have learnt nothing . I am not optimistic that we can get straight back. I di

  • Dummy4 on September 8, 2012, 12:48 GMT

    It would be unfair to single out any one player for criticism - the simple facts are, the batsmen didn't get runs and the bowlers didn't get wickets. Ashwell Prince fought valiantly in a losing cause, Kerrigan and Chapple tried their hardest, Cross and Hogg batted well down the order but always seemed to be swimming against the tide. Let's be optimistic - maybe a season in Div 2 will be good for the club. A chance for the younger players to come through. And we'll always have 2011 - and I've got "Champions? About Bloomin' Time!" to prove it!

  • Jem on September 8, 2012, 12:31 GMT

    Cont'd from below... The problem they managed to overcome last year but not this year was the lack of runs from the top order batting, who simply aren't good enough. Moores explanation that Lancs are giving youngsters a chance is a euphemism for the fact that the board are simply unwilling (or financially unable, after the delays and legal costs regarding the re-development plans) to sign any true high quality batsmen. Stephen Moore, Paul Horton, Karl Brown and Steven Croft are not good enough to bat in the top five and Luke Proctor and Tom Smith are fine young all-rounders but should not be batting higher than 6 and 7. We also desperately need a new wicketkeeper - aside from the last couple of matches, Gareth Cross contributes nothing with the bat (like his predecessor) and Lancs' greatest loss was not getting Sangakkara as the overseas pro and perhaps more tellingly, signing Moore instead of Steve Davies from Worcestershire, who would have been perfect. 2011 was, sadly, a freak.

  • Jem on September 8, 2012, 12:15 GMT

    @sillymidcover - What went wrong for Lancs? The captain got it spot on - they lack quality. Winning the championship last year was a more astonishing feat than most people acknowledged as it was done with perhaps the weakest side I've seen at Lancs for the last 3-4 decades. A strange combination of several factors were responsible, most notably the fact that home games were played on result pitches at Liverpool where there was minimal disruption from the weather. Aside from that, it was the bowlers that carried them, most notably perhaps due to a freak season from Kyle Hogg and some exceptional performances from young Kerrigan - neither have produced the same before or indeed this year, though Kerrigan obviously has time. Chapple is excellent virtually every year. (continued above..)

  • Martyn on September 8, 2012, 11:04 GMT

    Surrey deserved to stay in Div 1. They had early rain-induced draws, the tragedy of Tom Maynard, the resignation and loss of form of Rory Hamilton-Brown, and then showed their quality at the end of the season (just as they did last year). I'm looking forward to next season already!

  • Rhodri on September 8, 2012, 9:37 GMT

    Unhappiness at Lancashire; but what really went wrong? The comments from coach and captain are not enlightening as they consist entirely of cliché upon truism.

  • Ross on September 7, 2012, 21:29 GMT

    A very satisfactory first season back for Middlesex. A lot of the credit must go to Angus Fraser, who as Director of Cricket has really turned things round at the club. When he arrived the dressing room was splintered, the cricket administration was archaic and the club was drifting downwards lacking direction and leadership. The strife led to the departure of Compton and Joyce, two proven high quality performers, and the team had to be rebuilt from the bottom up. A couple of years flirting with the wooden spoon followed, but slowly Gus restored stability and turned things round, and the club is now in better shape than it has been for a decade or more. The captaincy issue has yet to be fully resolved, if it could be, along with an astute signing or two and a genuine push for the title next season is a realistic possibility. Congratulations to the players, coaches and administrators on a fine first season back.

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