Lancashire are in a strong position heading into the final day of their LV=County Championship match at Derbyshire, setting their hosts 365 to win after posting 345 in their second innings.
In reply, Derbyshire finished on 27/2 losing both of their opening batsmen before close of play although overnight batsman Martin Guptill (9*) remains a prized scalp for the visitors who need eight more wickets to start their season with a victory.
Ashwell Prince (97) and Steven Croft (70) added 160 runs for the fifth-wicket partnership after Lancashire had fallen to 43/4, losing Alviro Petersen for his overnight score of nine.
20-year-old Tom Taylor claimed career-best figures of 6/61 in only his seventh first-class match to help Derbyshire recover from the Prince and Croft stand. Alex Davies (89) added 100 runs for the final wicket with Kyle Jarvis (17*) as the Lancashire wicketkeeper made a career-best knock for the visitors to set Derbyshire an unsettling target of 365.
Davies struck nine fours and five sixes as he and Jarvis added exactly 100 runs in just over an hour to demoralise Derbyshire before they closed on 27/2.
Just five overs had been bowled on Day Three by the time Petersen was dismissed, as he failed to add any more runs to his overnight score, becoming Taylor’s first victim of the day. Petersen had been shuffling down the wicket in trademark fashion and when keeper Harvey Hosein was brought up to the stumps, he became trapped in his crease and was wrapped on the pads by young Taylor.
Prince and Croft initiated a necessary partnership after Lancashire had lost their eighth wicket in the match for 44 runs, as the pair batted for most of the morning session to give Lancashire a lunchtime score of 144/4.
Both Prince and Croft achieved half-centuries in 85 deliveries, although Prince was the first to reach this milestone when he hit three fours in quick succession to take him to his 86th first-class fifty. Croft soon followed after the interval scoring five fours as Lancashire’s fifth-wicket stand achieved a value of one-hundred runs.
Derbyshire continued to improve their pitiful overrate, somehow managing to pull back level half an hour into the afternoon session, with Alex Hughes and Wes Durston taking a battering in exchange for an improved overrate, but this was in vain as the hosts still finished two overs short at the end of the innings.
By the time Taylor and Footitt returned, the Derbyshire fans will have been wondering why their side had allowed Prince and Croft to settle after lunch and the reintroduction of Taylor in particular will have vindicated their frustration as he bowled an incredible spell of seven overs, three wickets for three runs.
Taylor’s efforts were even more necessary after Prince and the Lancashire vice-captain had tucked into Derbyshire’s fringe bowlers after lunch, as the hosts attempted to remedy an overrate that at one stage read minus six on the scoreboard.
Taylor broke their mammoth partnership – which fell 23 runs short of a record against Derbyshire – when Croft’s back-foot cut was sliced to Wes Durston at gully, who took a superb low catch with the score at 203/5.
As has been the case in this fixture, one wicket brought another as the Lancashire captain Tom Smith (1) was out when he edged behind to Harvey Hosein, handing Taylor his fifth wicket of the innings.
Taylor advanced his previous best figures of 5/58 against Gloucestershire last season when he claimed the prized wicket of Prince, who fell three runs short of what would have been his 41st first-class century – becoming Taylor’s sixth victim – also edging behind to Hosein.
At 214/7, Lancashire possessed a useful lead in a game where big partnerships had been sandwiched between clusters of wickets and this pattern continued for the visitors as Tom Bailey fell just after tea for 14.
Durston had been used as a means of improving Derbyshire’s overrate, but struck after the interval when he bowled Bailey to claim his first wicket of the innings and the match. He also claimed the wicket of Davies after the Lancashire keeper had dejected the Derbyshire bowling attack to finish with figures of 2/94.
Bailey’s 30-run partnership for the eighth-wicket with Davies proved to add vital runs to Lancashire’s total and Davies continued to increase the visitor’s lead despite the loss of Simon Kerrigan for a golden duck, as Tony Palladino (1/50) claimed his first scalp of the second innings.
However, their partnership was to be eclipsed by a tremendous and record-breaking stand against Derbyshire between Davies and Jarvis who added 100 runs for the final wicket. Davies had made 40 in the first innings and made a fine half-century in 77 deliveries, scoring seven fours and a six as he elevated Lancashire’s lead in excess of what Derbyshire would have ideally wanted to chase in a match which has largely been dominated by the bowlers.
Jarvis offered able assistance to Davies as they added 50 frustrating runs in 49 balls to take Lancashire past their first innings total of 293 and their lead beyond the 300-run mark. Davies added to more sixes after he reached his fifty, achieving his highest first-class score in the process.
Davies was eventually dismissed for 89 by which time he and Jarvis had scored 100 invaluable runs, setting Derbyshire a mammoth target of 365. Bailey (1-11) opened the attack in place of Jarvis who was exhausted after his partnership with Davies and he struck an early blow when Billy Godleman (4) was out lbw, a valuable wicket after he added 76 in the first innings.
Ben Slater (7) soon followed when Peter Siddle (1/10) had him caught behind by Davies with the score at 19/2 and night-watchman Taylor survived with Guptill after he had claimed six wickets earlier in the day.
Derbyshire require a further 338 runs to win but with eight second-innings wickets in hand and conditions set to favour Lancashire tomorrow, they will have to give a remarkable performance to avoid defeat or perhaps score the runs necessary for victory.