Lancashire go top as Worcestershire struggles continue
|LV County Championship Division One, Blackpool|
|Lancashire 282 and 248 beat Worcestershire 202 and 230 by 98 runs|
|Lancashire 21 pts, Worcestershire 3pts|
Lancashire hit the top of the County Championship after seeing off relegation-threatened Worcestershire to win by 98 runs at Blackpool.
Seamer Tom Smith proved the matchwinner, taking the final four wickets to fall, after spinner Gary Keedy had made the early breakthrough.
Resuming on 205-5, Worcestershire quickly lost Aneesh Kapil, stumped by Gareth Cross off Keedy.
And Smith then took over, taking 4-32 to complete Lancashire's victory.
Dangerman Gareth Andrew, who had hit 75 in the first innings, before going on to complete an eight-wicket match haul, was left stranded on 14 not out as Worcestershire received a blow to their hopes of beating the drop.
Steve Rhodes' side still have four matches left, starting against Hampshire at The Rose Bowl on Tuesday before meeting Lancashire again at New Road in 11 days' time.
That will be the first of three remaining matches for Lancashire, who have moved 13 points clear at the top ahead of Durham to inevitably raise supporters' hopes that their long wait for a first outright title win since 1934 might be about to end.
Bolstering Keedy (4-58) and skipper Glen Chapple (2-60), Smith took his wickets in a burst of 4-7 in 7.2 overs as he produced a season's best with the ball.
The breakthrough was made by Keedy, who dragged Kapil forward to be smartly stumped by Gareth Cross - the slow left-armer's 50th Championship wicket of a season in which he has recently been linked with a move to title rivals Warwickshire.
But the rest of the morning belonged to Smith, who started his inspired spell when he had nightwatchman Choudhry caught low down at backward point by Worcester old boy Stephen Moore.
Smith then struck again when he claimed the key wicket of wicketkeeper-batsman Ben Scott, who was lbw playing across the line.
The departure of Worcestershire's first innings top scorer only served to further energise the Lancashire attack.
And it was Smith who struck the final blows, bowling Richard Jones off an inside edge before having Alan Richardson caught at second slip by Blackpool-born Steven Croft.