Nottinghamshire hope for final-day chance
Nottinghamshire 89 for 2 v Lancashire
After rain washed out the entire third day's play at Old Trafford, Nottinghamshire's chances of winning the Championship title now rest on the hope that Lancashire can be convinced to play a shortened game on the fourth day, with both sides needing to forfeit an innings, in order to engineer a result.
If Somerset lose to Durham, Nottinghamshire could also sneak to the title if they get nine points by scoring 400 - they are currently 89 for 2 - and then taking three Lancashire wickets and drawing the match. That would be a breakdown of five batting bonus points, one bowling bonus point and three for the draw. The other way is, obviously, more unconventional.
"Our only chance is Somerset [and Yorkshire] not winning,'' admitted Mick Newell, Nottinghamshire's head of cricket. "We need nine points, which we could get in bonus points. Or we could have some sort of run chase with Lancashire tomorrow.''
The word from the ground on the third evening was that there remained a chance that could happen, but any target would have to significantly favour Lancashire for them to accept. In what could be a controversial end to the Championship race, Nottinghamshire will gain 16 points if they can pull off an unlikely victory, but also need Durham to fight out a draw with Somerset at Chester-le-Street. Of course, this entire scenario also rests on the weather and while it's likely that the sun will be out at Chester-le-Street tomorrow, intermittent showers are expected in Manchester.
"We've been sat talking quite a lot this afternoon," added Newell. "We've already started looking at that situation. That looks like the best option at the moment in terms of trying to get a minimum of nine points. If Lancashire are prepared to chase a score tomorrow afternoon then that discussion is going to have to take place.
These two teams have form in that department, with Lancashire setting Nottinghamshire a contrived 260 in 64 overs on the final day at Trent Bridge last month in a match they had to win. The hosts won by three wickets.
"You've got to keep the integrity of the game to the extent where you can't give anything away. We chased 260 off 64 at Trent Bridge a couple of weeks ago. That, to me, would be a similar amount off maybe a few more overs."
"At the moment I wouldn't like to plan too far ahead for anything because I think it might rain again," explained Lancashire coach Peter Moores. "What happens tomorrow, I don't know. We'll see if the weather's set fair and if we're going to get a day's cricket.
"Then you decide where you are from there like you would in any game. There's a responsibility to make the sure the integrity of the game and competition is kept. We'll cross all those bridges tomorrow when you sit down with the captain, look at conditions, the pitch and then take it from there and then make your call."
Nottinghamshire will have been keenly aware of events at Chester-le-Street, where Somerset remained in pole position in the Championship by claiming a full hand of batting bonus points after James Hildreth's seventh Championship hundred of the season. His knock ensured a six-point lead over Nottinghamshire and took Somerset to 426 - a lead of 140 over Durham. Nottinghamshire have been left needing a miracle.