Lancashire claimed their second successive County Championship victory of the season with a tense nine-wicket victory over Kent, as they successfully chased 104 runs with 14 balls to spare.
Paul Horton finished unbeaten on 67 as he led Lancashire’s second innings charge of 107/1 after Kent were eventually bowled out 295. This gave Lancashire a minimum of 21 overs to score 104 runs, an equation which required a confident approach from the hosts, but Horton’s seven fours and one six ensured that the Red Rose returned to the top of Division Two with 13-point lead over Essex in second place.
Lancashire needed to take seven more wickets as quickly as possible to give them a chance at achieving their second win of the season, a task which was initially not so easy as the combination of Kent’s determined batting and unpredictable weather delayed their search for success.
Brendan Nash looked in good touch and found the fence a couple of times as he adapted his languid approach from yesterday evening into one which was more pleasing for the crowd. But the left-hander was caught in two minds when Kyle Jarvis (4-67) sent down a short delivery, one which he attempted to fend into the leg-side, but the ball found the outside edge of his bat and ballooned to Ashwell Prince at gully who took a routine catch to dismiss Nash for 27.
A mixture of blue sky and grey clouds had surrounded Old Trafford for most of the morning session, but a brief delay in play saw five overs lost as the rain eventually drifted its way over the ground. Lancashire had 45 minutes before lunch to find another breakthrough and they did so in the third over after the rain delay when Siddle (3-36) had Darren Stevens (16) out lbw – as he did in the first innings – although on this occasion the decision was not so straightforward as the Kent all-rounder left the field in disgust, rather than with his bat in the air as he did the first time he was given out.
Kent managed to make it lunch without losing another wicket as the two Sams – Northeast and Billings – started to assemble a useful partnership. But their determination before the interval was to be undone as Lancashire removed both batsmen within three deliveries with the new ball, as Siddle and Jarvis claimed their third wickets of the innings.
Billings was the first to go as he became Jarvis’s seventh wicket of the match when he was caught behind for 11, although in truth there was very little he could do about the tremendous delivery he received from the Zimbabwean who got the ball to bounce sharply at the last minute.
Kent lost their second wicket with the score on 216 when Siddle also struck with the new ball after lunch, this time accounting for Northeast (43). Although he had arguably been Kent’s best batsman, Northeast played an uncharacteristically loose shot outside the off-stump, one which led to an inside-edge onto his leg-stump as the visitors lost their seventh wicket with a lead of just 28 runs.
Matt Coles (28) and Adam Riley came together with neither batsmen having got off the mark and in fairness to both batsmen, it would have been very easy to go down without a fight as Siddle and Jarvis had their tails up from the double blow they had just inflicted. Coles, who got out in the first innings in disappointing fashion, was out to make amends and was forced to play an unusually cultured innings, although just occasionally he showed glimpses of the more visceral side to his batting style, thrashing at air after long spells of defensive strokes.
He and Riley batted together for over 25 overs adding 49 runs for the eighth-wicket stand as Lancashire struggled to find the breakthrough. Riley faced 97 balls before tea for just 17 runs, such was his determination not to offer Lancashire a chance of winning the game and although Coles had batted sensibly he was eventually removed by Simon Kerrigan (2-50) when he found a leading edge to Steven Croft at leg slip.
Riley had played superb hand in Kent’s rearguard action, but he became Jarvis’s fourth victim of the innings when he was out lbw to his eighth ball after tea, playing back into his crease as he was trapped in front of all three stumps.
Mitchell Claydon and Ivan Thomas (4*) continued Kent’s resolute search for a draw and they faced seven overs together before the visitors lost their final wicket. Kerrigan claimed his second wicket of the innings as he had Claydon stumped for 24, setting Lancashire a target of 104 runs in a minimum of 21 overs.
Paul Horton and Luis Reece (16) batted with positive intent, knowing that Lancashire needed to score at a rate of nearly five runs per over. Reece was in good touch and seemed to benefit from the urgency which had been forced upon him, but was soon out hooking Claydon (1-30) to Northeast with the score at 47/1.
Horton was Lancashire’s main enforcer in their pursuit of victory and after scoring 71 in the first innings he carried the responsibility well, as he and Alviro Petersen added an unbeaten stand worth 60 runs for the second wicket. Lancashire’s opening batsman scored boundaries at regular intervals, but it was his thumping six over mid-wicket which took the required target down to single figures as he reached fifty in exactly fifty balls to guide Lancashire closer to their target.
Petersen played a useful role adding 22 in 27 deliveries, but it was Horton who guided the ball down to a vacant third-man for his seventh boundary, as Lancashire claimed a thrilling victory to take them back to the top of the table.