Lancashire rediscover Friday feeling
For the second Friday in succession Lancashire's cricketers achieved a memorable victory, beating Essex by three wickets on a thrilling final afternoon of the LV= County Championship Division Two match at Emirates Old Trafford.
Set 253 to win in 51 overs - later reduced to 47 by bad light - the Red Rose batsmen achieved their goal with just one ball to spare, a poor reward for James Foster's attacking declaration after nearly half the day had been lost to rain.
Yet Glen Chapple's side nearly messed up their run-chase when they lost three wickets in the penultimate over of the match from Reece Topley.
There was even further drama when the winning runs were scored as former Lancashire favourite Sajid Mahmood dropped a chance off Wayne White when a successful catch would have taken the game to its last possible delivery.
Topley finished with 5-80 from 14 overs and, like most of his colleagues, did not deserve to be on the losing side.
The late drama was in sharp contrast to a superb third-wicket partnership of 169 between Karl Brown and Ashwell Prince that had taken the home side to 182 for two, within 71 runs of victory with nine overs to be bowled.
Even after both batsmen were dismissed, Simon Katich made 26 and Steven Croft 28 to put Lancashire on the verge of a win which threatened to be comfortable.
The home side take 18 points from the game and Essex three, both teams having been docked one for a slow over-rate.
Lancashire's pursuit got off to a poor start when they lost both openers inside the first six overs. Luke Procter played across the line to a full-length delivery from David Masters and was lbw for only four, while Paul Horton failed to cope with Topley's extra bounce and steered the ball tamely to Rob Quiney in the gully.
Much of the rest of the day belonged to Brown and Prince, who saw off the threat of the new ball before gradually unfurling a series of attacking shots.
Although the Essex bowlers never lost their line or length, they were gradually overpowered by the Red Rose pair who whittled away at the target and reached a series of landmarks. The hundred partnership was achieved off just 123 balls and Brown reached his fifty from 72, with Prince taking seven deliveries longer.
If Brown's was the more spectacular innings, Prince's canny acquisition of runs was equally impressive. However, just when it seemed as though the pair were set for three figures, both were dismissed inside four overs.
Prince was yorked for 80 by Topley when attempting to work the ball through third man and a tired Brown lost his leg stump to Graham Napier on the same personal score.
Katich and Croft put on 41 in just 4.2 overs before the latter was caught by Rob Quiney - the Australian sustained an injury in the process - off Topley, who then removed Gareth Cross and Katich in the same over.
Just five were needed for victory, though, and they arrived in the next over courtesy of White and Kyle Hogg.