Somerset and Lancashire share thrilling tie
Keshav Maharaj took seven for 37 including the final wicket of Jack Leach.
Seven wickets from Keshav Maharaj saw Lancashire clinch a dramatic tie inside two days against Somerset in the Specsavers County Championship Division One match at Taunton.
Set only 78 to win after Jack Leach completed career-best match figures of 12 for 102 in Lancashire’s second innings of 170, Somerset crashed to 77 all out – their last two wickets falling with one run needed to win.
Left-arm spinner Maharaj was the hero, ending with 11 for 102 in the match, while Graham Onions contributed three important wickets as no home batsman could reach 20 under pressure.
Both teams took 11 points from the first Championship tie since 2003 and the outcome proved what could be a mortal blow to Somerset’s hopes of a first ever Championship title.
The hosts will also be awaiting the outcome of the pitch report from ECB Cricket Liaison Officer Dean Cosker with some concern after 25 wickets in the match fell to spin, and 22 wickets falling on the first day.
Lancashire began day two on seven for two.
It was seamer Craig Overton who struck the first two blows, pinning Karl Brown lbw driving, while nightwatchman Tom Bailey, newly awarded his county cap, chipped a catch to Azhar Ali at mid-on.
From 24 for four, Croft and Livingstone put together a stand of 57 in positive fashion before Leach then had Livingstone caught at short third-man aiming a big hit.
Dane Vilas edged to slip without scoring and when Josh Bohannon went in similar fashion on the stroke of lunch Lancashire were 119 for seven.
The afternoon session saw Croft reach an excellent half-century off 108 balls, but, having helped advance the total to 131, he got an inside edge to Craig Overton and was caught behind.
Maharaj struck a couple of meaty blows before being stumped off Leach and Graham Onions had smashed three fours and a six when last man out, caught on the mid-wicket boundary.
Somerset had knocked off only five of the required runs when Marcus Trescothick fell leg-before to Onions, who then had Azhar Ali taken at second slip for a first ball duck to send Somerset into a panic.
James Hildreth was bowled attempting to cut a ball from Maharaj that hurried through and it was 20 for four when Tom Abell dragged his back foot playing defensively to be stumped off the same bowler.
Steve Davies went lbw to Onions and Ben Green edged a catch to slip off Maharaj to leave Somerset 37 for six, still needing 41. The tea break came with that figure reduced to 26 and soon afterwards Maharaj removed both Lewis Gregory and Craig Overton lbw.
With 14 required, Jamie Overton struck an aerial boundary just beyond the reach of Livingstone to an audible gasp from the 2,000 crowd.
Amazingly, with the scores level, Dom Bess, on 19, was stumped trying to hit Maharaj out of the ground and Leach blotted his copybook by being caught by Bailey at wide long-on off after aiming another big hit when just one run was needed to give the visitors what could be a vital 11 points.
Lancashire director of cricket Paul Allott said: “We would have taken a tie at 10.30 this morning I can tell you. It was a hugely dramatic game, although I am not sure how good it was. What t has done is caught people’s attention and put County Championship cricket in the spotlight.
“The pitch, in my view, was certainly below average and could have been rated poor on the ECB scale. It was disappointing to be confronted by those conditions, but we produced a stunning performance in the field this afternoon to come out of a game we were behind in on level terms.
“Spin won the day, but if you can’t turn a ball on that wicket there isn’t much hope for you. It was a loose and dusty surface, which you would expect bowlers of international calibre to perform on as well as they did.”
Somerset director of cricket Andy Hurry said: “I am feeling as hugely disappointed as the players are in our dressing room. With a couple of exceptions, neither team applied themselves with the bat and we certainly didn’t in our final innings chasing down only 78.
“There was a combination of good bowling and not very clever batting, which was the case throughout the match. Very few players on either side could find a way of scoring runs.
“I have not spoken to the Cricket Liaison Officer, but we will be informed of his report in the next few days. I have not seen evidence of excessive spin throughout the game, which there would need to be for the pitch to be deemed below average.”