Lancashire have sensationally won the LV County Championship outright for the first time since 1934 after chasing down a target of 211 in their second innings against Somerset.
Glenn Chapple – a mainstay of the county for 20 seasons – lifted the trophy which was whisked down to the ground by England legend Mike Gatting after taking residence at the Rose Bowl.
After a long season, it came down to the last hour with the lead at the top of the table frequently changing hands, and at one point Lancashire were third in the table after Durham leapfrogged them.
Just after 5pm, the news came through that Warwickshire captain Jim Troughton had conceded the draw meaning it was all eyes on Taunton, with Lancashire needing less than 30 to win and eight wickets in hand.
The win was Peter Moores’ men’s tenth of the season and was achieved without England superstar Jimmy Anderson and with a close bunch of locally developed players.
Not one game was played at their Old Trafford headquarters, making this truly a county-wide championship victory.
The Red Rose county had started the day needing five more wickets before they had to bat again and heroic captain Chapple – bowling with a torn hamstring – made the perfect start, picking up two wickets as Somerset reached 130-7.
However, Somerset veteran Peter Trego was a determined opponent and made a fine innings of 120 before he fell to Simon Kerrigan.
Somerset – who had an outside chance of winning the title before play – posted a competitive score of 380, with former Lancashire man Murali Kartik unbeaten on 65.
With Michael Carberry and Neil McKenzie frustrating title favourites Warwickshire at the Rose Bowl with fine centuries for relegated Hampshire, Lancs made the perfect start.
Paul Horton and Stephen Moore both passed 50 – and a 1000 runs for the season – before they fell to Craig Meschede and Trego, respectively.
The luck was all on Lancashire’s side when Geemal Hussain dropped Steven Croft on the boundary and it trickled over the boundary for four.
With ten runs left, the Lancashire fans who had made the trip to Taunton were in fine voice with huge cries of “Oh Lanky, Lanky” echoing around the ground.
The win and the championship were confirmed when – with cries of ‘we’re going to win the league’ – Croft punched the ball four through point to send the players wild on the balcony.
The celebrations spilled out onto the pitch with all of the team and the backroom staff rushing to celebrate with the unbeaten batsmen.
Lancashire Director of Cricket Mike Watkinson – who spoke to MM exclusively a fortnight ago of his belief that Lancashire would win the title – was there to congratulate all the players on creating history.
The victorious fans were allowed to join their heroes on the pitch to start the celebrations that will surely go on all night and added to the Lancs’ title win, their bitter rivals Yorkshire were relegated from the First Division.