After three days of this relegation scramble, only precocious Lancashire blocker Haseem Hameed stands between Warwickshire and a win that will ensure their top division status. Even Hameed, however, can’t bat at both ends so the match looks unlikely to progress too far into the final afternoon.
Having been set a target of 347 to win in 114 overs, Lancashire made a poor start in the 18 evening overs, stumbling to 28-3. Keith Barker, Chris Wright and Jeetan Patel all claimed wickets, Patel’s being his hundredth in all competitions this year. Hameed has so far shown his solid defence in scoring 11 off 49 deliveries.
With a little cloud cover and intermittent sunshine throughout the day, batting conditions were easier than on the first two days. Even so, there was enough variable bounce and occasional deviation to ensure that vigilance was the name of the game, as evidenced by the 14 lbw decisions in the match so far.
At the start of the day, Lancashire needed an early breakthrough, and makeshift Warwickshire opener Alex Mellor obliged shouldering arms to Tom Bailey. Ian Westwood soldiered on, as he does, while Jonathan Trott played confidently all round the wicket. Three on-side shots in one over from Luke Procter all reached the boundary.
Westwood became the second batsman to depart after shouldering arms. Fluent is hardly a word you could associate with Westwood but his was an important effort at a key stage of the day.
For a while, Trott and Ian Bell contrived to make batting look relatively easy. It was a major surprise, therefore when in the last over before lunch Trott let one between bat and pad and was bowled off stump for 42 by a Lilley off break.
Into the afternoon, Bell and Sam Hain flourished with pleasing shots before Bell chopped on to Jarvis for 31 and Hain became the third batsman to pad up fatally.
The man who tilted the match in Warwickshire’s favour was Tim Ambrose, who batted with the level of sound common sense that he has displayed for most of the season. He received support from Rikki Clarke (20) and Keith Barker (23) before Jeetan Patel joined him for a late flurry.
Patel hit both Lilley and Simon Kerrigan for sixes.
When the declaration came at 279-7, Ambrose was undefeated on 59, the highest score of the match so far.
Whereas Warwickshire will be confident of clinching a win, Lancashire will need to keep a close eye on events at the Aegeas Bowl in order to know whether they will be headed to Leicester, Bristol and Cardiff next year.