The penultimate round of fixtures in Division One of the County Championship could hardly have gone much better – from a neutral point of view at least.
Somerset’s unlikely hammering of Yorkshire at Headingley has dragged the Taunton side firmly back into title contention, while Lancashire’s draw against leaders Middlesex keeps the top three in close order heading into the final matches of the season.
Middlesex stand nine points clear of reigning champions Yorkshire, who are chasing a third successive title, while Somerset are just a point adrift of the White Rose in third.
The top two square off at Lord’s next week, in a mouth-watering encounter, while Somerset host already-relegated Nottinghamshire at Taunton.
If Somerset are to claim a first County Championship crown, they will hope to claim a comprehensive victory over Notts, and will be keeping their fingers crossed for a draw at Lord’s or a Yorkshire win featuring few bonus points.
The equation for Middlesex is simple, beat Yorkshire and a first title since 1993 will be heading to Lord’s. Similarly, Yorkshire know that only a win will do – making that match a fascinating prospect.
After Somerset had concluded their trouncing of Yorkshire on day three yesterday, attention turned to Old Trafford where Middlesex were hoping to clinch a precious victory over Lancashire.
It was set up to be a humdinger of a day as Middlesex resumed on 77-4, leading by 145. In truth, the morning session had some looking around for a freshly-painted wall.
The visitors eased to lunch on 167-4, before Simon Kerrigan managed to inject some life with two quick wickets. Middlesex eventually declared on 240-8 – setting Lancashire a target of 309 from 44 overs.
The Red Rose opened with Jos Buttler to try and chase it down, but after a flurry of early boundaries he fell, and no more wickets were to go down before the teams shook hands.
Middlesex claimed 11 points, to keep them top of the title pile, while Lancashire took a crucial nine points in their battle to avoid relegation.
Lancashire travel to Edgbaston to face fellow relegation candidates Warwickshire next week, knowing a draw will keep them safe.
At the top, we are all set for a titanic three-way tussle, and what should be a huge showdown at Lord’s – with Somerset waiting in the wings to pinch top spot.