Lancashire skittled Somerset to pull off a remarkable heist at Old Trafford, having been dismissed for 109 on the first day and after conceding a 169-run first‑innings deficit.
Lancashire’s grizzled, unglamorous overseas pro, Ryan McLaren – who balances their side from No7 and offers a steady first change option – was the star of the fourth day. His eighth-wicket stand of 77, which began on the third evening, with Stephen Parry built on Alex Davies and Liam Livingstone’s extraordinary partnership of 245, to haul Lancashire to 463 and set Somerset 295 in 77 overs.
McLaren then took four for 37, including the last, as Somerset were bundled out for 130 to lose by 164 runs. James Anderson took two wickets, including Marcus Trescothick, caught by McLaren in the cordon for 37. This was Somerset’s second wasteful defeat as many matches; they have plenty to concern them, not least the form of their 23-year-old captain Tom Abell, who McLaren strangled down the leg side for a second duck this season. His other two innings brought a run each.
Middlesex’s hunt for the first win of their title defence reached an unsatisfactory conclusion against Essex as they were hauled off for bad light shortly before 5.30pm, two wickets shy of victory, and forced to settle for a draw from which they took 12 points to Essex’s eight. The Middlesex coach, Richard Scott, insisted they did not rue their decisions to decline the follow-on or delay their own declaration on the third evening.
Middlesex’s indefatigable bowling attack, led by Toby Roland-Jones, who took three wickets, and Steven Finn, bowling with great pace and zip (particularly when bowling Ravi Bopara the ball after a premature tea brought about by a rain delay), toiled hard to take eight Essex wickets in the 68 overs possible on the final day, especially given the light often dictated who was able to bowl. Alas they simply ran out of time.
Alastair Cook’s fluent 37, ended when he propped forward and popped Ollie Rayner to short-leg, took him past 20,000 first-class runs.
The Yorkshire captain, Gary Ballance, was off the field for just 12.3 overs of their match against Hampshire, which he saved for his team with twin tons (the second of which, following on, was a double) across 12 hours 55 minutes of batting. Ballance, who has 508 runs this season, resumed on the final day still 46 behind but, despite losing Peter Handscomb just before the new ball and Jonny Bairstow to Kyle Abbott with its first delivery, shared 94 with Tim Bresnan to save the game, finishing 203 not out from 384 balls.
Hampshire were thwarted by their own pitch’s placidity – the sole serious reason to doubt their fledging title credentials – for a second successive game. Like Surrey and Lancashire, they have a win and two draws from their first three games.
Warwickshire batted through the final day to arrest their early season slump with a draw, from which they took 10 points to Surrey’s 13. Ian Bell was dismissed by Gareth Batty, one shy of his 52nd first-class century, while Tom Curran took four wickets, including Tim Ambrose for 85, as Warwickshire reached 435 for eight by the time hands were shaken. Already, Warwickshire’s trip to face Somerset on 20 May shapes as vital clash in a division from which 25% of participants will be relegated.
The two Division Two matches that made it to a final day could not draw results. Leicestershire and Glamorgan remain winless, but the former have the consolation of moving into positive figures by picking up 12 points (Glamorgan took 13). Durham will have to wait at least a game more for that dubious pleasure as the 12 points they claimed by drawing with Gloucestershire (nine) moved them to minus 33.