Lancashire 0 for 0 trail Gloucestershire 311 for 8 dec (Hancock 61, Taylor 60, Adshead 52*, Keedy 7-95) by 311 runs
If, as now seems almost certain, Lancashire are relegated sometime in the next three days, no fault will be attached to Gary Keedy, whose career-best figures of 7 for 95 kept their outside chances of survival alive a little longer.
Keedy bowled unchanged from the 11th over, taking the first seven wickets to fall as Gloucestershire, who won the toss, ploughed towards three batting points. When they declared on 311 for 8, shortly before bad light ended play early, they were within one point of safety. The ECB had warned them that any declarations made with a view to deliberately depriving Lancashire of bonus points would be penalised, but not even the harshest critic would claim that this one one made anything other than perfect tactical sense.
Craig Spearman and Phil Weston gave Gloucestershire a sound start after Chris Taylor won the toss, adding 55 before Keedy struck twice. He had Spearman stumped by Warren Hegg for 34 and then bowled Weston for 19 (60 for 2). Gloucestershire reached lunch on a sedate 156 for 2, but shortly after the restart Keedy struck three times in as many overs.
But after that flurry of activity, Tim Hancock and Steve Adshead put on a vital 97 for the sixth wicket, and in so doing almost extinguished Lancashire's slim hopes. Keedy broke the stand, dismissing Hancock and Ian Fisher in quick succession, but Gloucestershire passed 300 - and earned another batting point - before, with the gloom enveloping Old Trafford, both in the skies and the pavilion, they declared.
"Although it would obviously be a big disappointment, it wouldn't be the disaster that being relegated from the Premiership has become in football," Jim Cumbes, Lancashire's chief executive, told the Daily Telegraph. "Financially, all counties receive the same central funding no matter which division they are in, and we wouldn't be looking at a mass exodus of players or anything like that. But we see ourselves as one of the top four or five counties, which doesn't square with being in the Second Division."