Lancashire’s draw against Glamorgan left the Division Two leaders needing just five points to clinch promotion in the LV= County Cricket Championship.
But it also left spectators at Emirates Old Trafford in little doubt as to why Jacques Rudolph and his players have been such tough opponents for many teams this season.
When Colin Ingram was caught behind off James Faulkner 20 minutes after lunch Glamorgan were 45 for two, having been asked to follow on 249 runs behind. There were a minimum of 56 overs left in the day.
What followed was an exhibition of high-quality defensive batsmanship by two cricketers whose team has nothing more exalted than third place in English cricket’s second tier to achieve this summer.
Rudolph led the way, making 63 off 206 balls in 244 minutes before he was leg before to Steven Croft just before the last hour, but he was very well supported by Chris Cooke.
The latter was undefeated on 41 when the players shook hands at 5.20 with Glamorgan on 159 for three and nine overs still available to Lancashire.
Accompanying Cooke at the close was David Lloyd, who was 20 not out and had helped his fourth-wicket partner see off the new ball which had been taken with only 11 overs left in the match.
Before lunch, opener Will Bragg was brilliantly caught one-handed to his right in the gully by Karl Brown off Kyle Jarvis when he had made eight and Ingram’s departure followed a torrid examination by Faulkner’s left-arm seam bowling.
Thereafter, spinners Simon Kerrigan, Arron Lilley and Croft all bowled well, as did seamers Faulkner, Jarvis and Glen Chapple. But they were met by straight bats, secure techniques and resolute temperaments.
These were enough both to secure the draw and to reinforce the judgement that this Glamorgan regime under the stewardship of Rudolph and coach Toby Radford may be capable of mounting a challenge next season.
That said, some of Glamorgan’s batting in their first innings on the final morning did not exhibit the resolution of which Radford and Rudolph would approve.
Resuming on 182 for six, Glamorgan lost three wickets for 31 runs in 11.2 overs, and since Kieran Bull was unable to bat because of a back injury the visitors were all out when nine wickets down. They were immediately asked to follow on.
The last three wickets to fall in Glamorgan’s first innings were all taken by Kerrigan, who capitalised upon some rather rash shot selection by Glamorgan’s later batsmen and ended the innings with four for 60 from 24.4 overs.
Mark Wallace was the first to go when his failed attempt to sweep a ball which pitched outside off resulted in the loss of his off stump.
Eight overs later Graham Wagg came down the wicket to Kerrigan and was stumped by Alex Davies for 20 and Michael Hogan was caught by Chapple at mid-wicket three balls later for two.
Indeed, the only matter of concern for home supporters on the final morning was the hand injury suffered by Brown when he was hit by the ball when fielding close to the wicket just before lunch.
Lancashire’s draw leaves them 10 points ahead of Surrey at the top of Division Two, with each side having three games left to play.