Cricket: Middlesex slump as Lancashire clinch title
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Middlesex suffered another batting collapse on day one of their County Championship Division Two clash with Lancashire at Old Trafford.
Having dismissed the home side for 259, they closed on 39-6 as Tom Bailey ran through their line-up to take five wickets in just 24 balls.
What had seemed almost certain for over a month was finally confirmed just after 4.30pm as Lancashire clinched the title.
Northamptonshire's failure to get more than one batting bonus point from their game against Durham combined with Lancashire gaining two points for their first innings total against Middlesex meant the home side had secured its third promotion in seven seasons.
And after posting a total that seemed no better than par on a good cricket wicket, Lancashire's bowlers celebrated their side's success by taking three Middlesex wickets for no runs in seven balls to reduce the visitors to 15-3.
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Max Holden and Martin Andersson, the latter making his first championship appearance of the season, tried to restore order but Andersson was lbw for four and thereby joined Nick Gubbins and Dawid Malan as victims of Bailey.
But the Lancashire new-ball bowler was not finished there although he was fortunate to trap nightwatchman Miguel Cummins lbw for two before a brilliant caught and bowled, low to his right, to remove Holden for five and finished with 5-16 from his nine overs.
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But Lancashire's late successes were only achieved at the end of a day in which the Middlesex attack had stuck to its disciplines and performed well despite resting three front-line seamers.
Liam Livingstone led the way for Lancashire with an innings of 84 but this match had seemed well-balanced after both James Harris and Nathan Sowter had taken three wickets.
In the first session Lancashire openers Alex Davies and Keaton Jennings put on 49 for the first wicket in confident style before both departed in the space of six balls. Davies was caught behind by John Simpson off Harris for 16 and Keaton Jennings was leg before to Cummins for 22 when he played inside a ball which was slanted in to him.
Josh Bohannon and Livingstone both began their innings with a flurry of fours but Bohannon's hopes of repeating his 174 against Derbyshire ended when he was caught by Simpson off a fine ball from Toby Roland-Jones for 19.
The play after lunch was notable for a succession of boundaries, two of which were hit by the impressive Rob Jones, but the Cheshire right-hander was bowled for 11 when playing all too loosely at Harris. An over later Dane Vilas edged Miguel Cummins to Malan and departed for only his second duck of the season.
Livingstone went on the attack, reaching his fifty off 64 balls with a pulled four off Harris, but just when his century seemed probable, the Cumbrian right-hander was leg before to Ethan Bamber.
Bailey was caught at mid-off by Cummins off Sowter for nine but Steven Croft's unbeaten 55, his fourth fifty of the season, ensured Lancashire reached what has now become a formidable total. Sowter finished with 3-42 and Harris 3-59 before the Middlesex batsmen tumbled.