Warwickshire safe from relegation after beating Lancashire
WARWICKSHIRE secured their Specsavers County Championship Division One status for another year by completing a thumping 237-run win which left Lancashire sweating on news from elsewhere to learn their survival fate.
Chasing a notional victory target of 347 at Edgbaston, Lancashire were bowled out for 109 early on the final afternoon, their batting pared away by relentlessly accurate bowling led by Rikki Clarke (10.5-3-20-4), Jeetan Patel (24-11-46-3), and Chris Wright (14-8-8-2).
By banking their first home championship win of the season at the last attempt, Warwickshire preserved the First Division status they have held unbroken since 2009.
But Lancashire were left facing a tense wait for tidings from Southampton where victory for Hampshire over Durham would relegate the Red Rose. A draw or Durham victory would reprieve Steven Croft's side.
Lancashire resumed on the final morning on 28 for three, needing to execute a massive rearguard action, and they started in determined fashion as overnight pair Haseeb Hameed and nightwatchman Simon Kerrigan survived for 50 minutes.
But Wright made the vital breakthrough when Hameed (27, 78 balls, four fours) was brilliantly caught by Clarke, low to his left, at second slip.
Clarke then struck with his first ball from the Pavilion End, which Croft bat-padded to Sam Hain at short-leg. When Liam Livingstone edged Patel to Jonathan Trott at second slip, Lancashire were in deep trouble.
Kerrigan showed exactly the sort of resolve his team needed, batting throughout the morning session for ten runs, but his excellent resistance was terminated quickly after lunch. Having made ten from 117 balls (no fours, no sixes) the nightwatchman edged Patel to Clarke at slip.
Clarke then delivered pacy, full-length inswingers to send Jordan Clark's off-stump flying and rattle Tom Bailey's middle and off-stumps to leave Lancashire last pair Arron Lilley and Kyle Jarvis with 58 overs to survive.
Lilley smote Patel for three fours and a six in an over which cost 20 but when Jarvis poked Clarke to Ian Westwood at silly point, Warwickshire's inconsistent season ended on a high and in safety - while Lancashire settled in for that tense wait.
"It was probably our best team performance of the season," said Warwickshire skipper, Ian Bell.
"To do that when you need it is great, though it is also frustrating in a way because it shows what our potential is. To escape relegation is great but we are at the wrong end of the table.
"It was a scrappy game of cricket but, in terms of fight, and the way we went about our cricket, one to 11, it was the best we have played this season. It was a massive team performance."