Lancashire v Middlesex set for tense finale as drop beckons
|LV= County Championship Division One, Emirates Old Trafford|
|Close, day three: Middlesex 214 & 202-4 v Lancashire 302-8 dec|
|Lancashire 6 pts, Middlesex 3 pts|
Lancashire will survive in Division One and relegate Middlesex if they can beat their closest rivals at Old Trafford.
Captain Glen Chapple (45 not out) was the batting hero in the morning session as Lancashire overcame the loss of two early wickets to claim the third batting point they needed to keep alive their hopes of avoiding relegation.
Middlesex ended day three on 202-4 in their second innings, leading by 114.
England opener Sam Robson (75) led the visitors' reply.
Eoin Morgan is 41 not out overnight and, as a tense final game of the season hangs in the balance, his contribution is likely to be crucial for Middlesex on day four.
Lancashire resumed on 259-6, requiring a further 41 in 14 overs for the loss of no more than two wickets to maintain their hopes of staying up - by collecting a third batting point and deny Middlesex a third bowling point.
Tim Murtagh dismissed Luke Procter and Simon Kerrigan early on, but Chapple and Tom Bailey rescued Lancashire.
Needing seven runs from the 110th over to achieve their target, 40-year-old Chapple hit Toby Roland-Jones for six over mid-wicket from the first delivery, before collecting three from the next and immediately declaring on 302-8.
Middlesex approached their second innings with patience under gloomy skies in Manchester and, although many of their top-order batsmen got starts, only Robson made it past 50.
Neil Dexter faced 49 balls without scoring - including being dropped by Paul Horton at first slip off Chapple - before hitting Steven Croft for four in the penultimate over of a day which was ended early by bad light.
Lancashire captain Glen Chapple:
"I suppose it is better to be out there than in the dressing room. I would imagine the lads in the dressing room were going through it.
"I thought Tom Bailey played really well, showed a lot of character and he did the bulk of the work this morning.
"I didn't back myself to clear the ropes with the field back. We needed a few too many runs and I didn't want to leave it until the last two balls so I took a gamble and it paid off.
"The plan was to get to 300 a little easier than that. It was always going to be a little touch and go but thankfully it went our way.
"This game from the start has been about us keeping our chances alive. As the game stands now, Middlesex have a lot of work to do."
Middlesex seamer Tim Murtagh:
"I don't think anybody can feel confident at any stage in this match. Each side has got a foothold and then it has twisted and gone the other way.
"It was good that Eoin and Neil got though the last hour or so without any further loss. We'll come back and see what the morning has in store for us.
"We needed a couple of wickets early this morning but maybe the script was written for Chapple in what may be his final game. We couldn't do it the easy way so we had to do it the hard way."
BBC London 94.9's Kevin Hand:
"Middlesex are keeping their heads above water in this game but only just, as Lancashire continue their remarkable fight to stay in Division One.
"So far, the hosts have done everything they need to do to survive. Glenn Chapple's effort to push his team to the required additional batting point will live long in the memory of the county if the great escape is achieved.
"Spin is coming into the game increasingly as the days' progress and one of the two left-arm spinners in this match, Simon Kerrigan or Ravi Patel, may well play the decisive role.
"Ideally, Middlesex would want to bat until tea on Friday and secure the draw but, with the new ball available in eight overs, they must at least target another 130 runs to set Lancashire a testing 250 in a winner-takes-all run chase."