|Specsavers County Championship Division One, Cooper Associates County Ground (day two):|
|Lancashire 99: Leach 5-28 & 170: Croft 51; Leach 7-74|
|Somerset 192: Gregory 64* & 77: Maharaj 7-37, Onions 3-28|
|Somerset (11 pts) tied with Lancashire (11 pts)|
Lancashire bowled out Somerset for just 77 to tie a remarkable County Championship contest at Taunton.
The hosts were 37-6 chasing 78 to win, and were eight wickets down with the scores level before Dom Bess was stumped off Keshav Maharaj’s bowling.
Maharaj (7-37) then had last man Jack Leach, who earlier returned career-best bowling figures, caught at deep mid-wicket to complete a thrilling climax.
It was the first Championship match to end in a tie for 15 years.
The competition’s most recent tie before this one was between Warwickshire and Essex in April 2003.
At Taunton, the result appeared to end Somerset’s lingering title hopes.
Leaders Surrey asked Essex to follow-on in their ongoing match at Chelmsford and they seem certain to extend an advantage over Somerset that now stands at 21 points, with both sides having three games left to play at the end of this round of fixtures.
Meanwhile, further questions are sure to be asked of the Taunton pitch after 22 wickets fell on day one and then Somerset collapsed so spectacularly on the second afternoon.
An incredible second day’s play had started with home spinner Leach taking 7-74 as Lancashire were bowled out for 170 in their second innings.
He appeared have put the hosts on the brink of victory by registering career-best match figures of 12-102, but nobody foresaw the drama that followed.
Veteran seamer Onions (3-28) dismissed Marcus Trescothick and Azhar Ali with successive balls, taking him past the milestone of 50 Championship wickets this season, and three wickets before tea for South Africa spinner Maharaj made Lancashire slight favourites.
England Test all-rounder Bess appeared to be guiding Somerset home but, with one run required for victory, failed to connect when coming down the pitch to Maharaj and was stumped by Dane Vilas.
Onions bowled a maiden over to Jamie Overton to prolong a gripping finale, before Leach picked out Tom Bailey on the boundary, giving Maharaj match figures of 11-102.
Pitch ‘verging on poor’ – Allott at start of day two
At the end of day one, Somerset head coach Jason Kerr said he did not envisage any punishment relating to the condition of the pitch at Taunton, blaming instead “some very poor batting from both sides” for the number of wickets that fell.
However, speaking to BBC Radio Lancashire before play began on day two, Lancashire cricket director Paul Allott described the surface as “below average, verging on poor”.
He said: “There was some indifferent batting and I thought Somerset edged us on performance.
“It looks like a fifth-day Test match pitch. It’s worn, it’s pitted and some areas in it are hugely conducive for spin bowling.
“I’ve got no issue with what Jason says. It’s not my prerogative to agree or disagree with him. All I can say is, in my view, that pitch is not the best that could have been prepared.
“It’s disappointing to come all the way to Taunton and be confronted with those conditions in such an important game.”
Title race scenario
- Following the tie against Lancashire, second-placed Somerset can only collect a maximum of 247 points this season
- Surrey, therefore, need 52 points to win the title, not including any earned in their current game against Essex
- If Surrey beat Essex, they will collect 22 points, and so will need another 30 to become champions