Lancashire v Essex, Old Trafford, 4th day May 10, 2013

Mahmood blunders as Lancs thunder to win

Myles Hodgson at Old Trafford

Lancashire 177 (Phillips 3-20) and 253 for 7 (Prince 80, Brown 80, Topley 5-80) beat Essex 226 (Napier 102*, Procter 4-66) and 203 for 3 dec (Cook 60, Mickleburgh 53*) by three wickets

Sajid Mahmood may have pictured a triumphant homecoming on his return to Old Trafford with Essex, who he joined following an acrimonious departure from Lancashire during the winter, but instead he suffered a final day that will haunt him for many years to come.

The stage was set for Mahmood, furious that Lancashire were not prepared to offer him a new contract at the end of last season, to deny his former team a thrilling victory as they attempted to chase down 253 off 51 overs on the final afternoon. That target was later reduced by four overs by an interruption for bad light, but it was Mahmood's intervention that proved decisive.

Given the responsibility to bowl the 44th over of the innings, with Lancashire needing 32 to win off the final four overs, it was pretty much the turning point of the match as Steven Croft helping himself to 15 off the final five balls, including a six over midwicket and an all-run four through the covers.

If that was not enough of a setback for Mahmood, he was to play an even bigger role in the final over, with Lancashire needing five runs to win having lost three wickets in the previous over. They scored four off the first four deliveries before Wayne White launched Graham Napier to Mahmood at long leg, only for him to spill the regulation catch and allow the single to be scrambled that secured victory.

"When we saw that last ball, we all ended up with mixed feelings," said Karl Brown, whose 80 in a 169-run stand with Ashwell Prince proved crucial to Lancashire's win. "Saj is a great mate of a lot of the lads, we've played with him for a long time and it's not nice to see that happen. We won the game so we were really happy, but I think we all spared a thought for Saj because that's not nice when that happens, especially to someone you're so close to."

Lancashire's triumph came a week after they dismissed Glamorgan for 139 at Colwyn Bay chasing 154 for victory and boosts their promotion hopes. That the umpires saw fit to dock each side a point for slow over rates was barely noticed in either dressing room after such a compelling advert for county cricket.

Essex, in particular, deserve plenty of credit for their role in such an exciting finale. Having reached 203 for 3 overnight and in little trouble, they could have watched from the dressing room for the final afternoon and enjoyed batting practice in the middle.

Instead they set up a game to remember and so nearly secured an astonishing win themselves. They began the final afternoon impressively, dismissing both Lancashire openers in the space of three balls to leave them struggling on 13 for 2. Despite an outstanding opening spell from Reece Topley, and Mahood troubling Lancashire's batsmen with his pace and bounce, Essex could not dislodge Brown and Prince during their 198-ball partnership.

Both fell in quick succession for 80, Prince bowled by Topley making himself room and Brown in similar fashion to Napier, only for Steven Croft and Simon Katich to add 41 in four overs to leave Lancashire needing 12 off the final two overs.

Just as victory was in sight, Topley responded by claiming three wickets in an over to finish with 5 for 80, with Croft falling to a brilliant diving catch from Rob Quiney in the deep that forced him off the field with a shoulder injury.

It left Lancashire facing a tense final over, which was finally settled by Mahmood's misfield, and left Essex rueing missed opportunities. "We took a bit of a punt, but the way we'd been playing, showing a lot of character and skill, we thought it was an excellent opportunity to get a win under our belts and get a lot of points," captain James Foster said. "It was a risk but we thought it was a calculated risk."

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Steve on May 11, 2013, 11:35 GMT

    First great credit to Essex for making a game of this. You have to take a chance on losing in order to win games. And sometimes that will not work out, as in this case, but the differential in points between win/draw/lose is such that you have to go for the win.

    Secondly credit to Lancashire for chasing the runs down very well. Though having been pretty much outplayed they can surely only reflect on their good fortune with the weather. Without the overs lost on days 3 and 4 they must surely have been so far adrift that victory would have been impossible.

    Finally Saj Mahmood. Dropping the catch was unfortunate but it happens. But sadly he displayed the reason Lancs let him go - in pressure situations he had a tendency to go for big runs just when his side could not afford that. Although it was an inconsequential 20/20 game at Derby last year his final bowl in Lancashire colours went for 15 off 3 legitimate deliveries. A tight over would have made it close. Same here - a poor over.

  • Jackie on May 11, 2013, 6:03 GMT

    The game might be won or lost on the final ball - but if you take it down to the wire you have to accept that there is going to be a stumble from the luckless players at the end for one team to win. What you don't do is make a scapegoat of one person. If Essex wanted to be sure of the game then they should have wrapped it up earlier. But I'm sure the Essex captain knows better, only the reporter here lets the side down. And kingkarthik's less than impressive cartoon observation.

  • david on May 10, 2013, 21:11 GMT

    well then we should do this in every game, behind the four ball in the last 2 in cc2 on days 1/2/3 then win it on the 4th.

  • Karthik on May 10, 2013, 20:22 GMT

    He he he he.Mahmood never had the mental fortitude required for club cricket, leave alone international cricket.

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