Dane Vilas stars in crucial Lancashire victory at Southport
Lancashire gave their Division One survival chances a huge boost by edging a thrilling County Championship clash against Worcestershire at Southport.
A century from skipper Dane Vilas was the crucial contribution as the South African guided his team to a remarkable and improbable chase of 314 with an unbroken century stand with Josh Bohannon.
Worcestershire had looked the most likely to force a win for much of the match and indeed the day, but the efforts of Lancashire’s middle-order ensured they grabbed what could be a pivotal win.
It was a day where the balance swung between sessions.
At lunch, Worcestershire were firmly in the ascendancy. By tea, it was anyone’s game.
Lancashire resumed eight for none, chasing 314 to win.
It was a daunting target, especially given the highest total in the game was Worcestershire’s second-innings 252.
It was also the record successful chase at Southport – beating Durham’s 247 in 2016.
Their morning started badly, nightwatchman Toby Lester run out from their 13th ball of the day.
Haseeb Hameed grafted hard before striking three boundaries in quick succession to move to 14. But Ed Barnard struck twice in an over to have Hameed and then Rob Jones – who bagged a pair – caught behind.
When Alex Davies departed for a swift 30, Worcestershire had dominated the morning and appeared on the cusp of a victory charge with Lancashire 96-4 at lunch.
But the afternoon belonged to Lancashire and, in particular, to Vilas. He shared successive half-century partnerships, first with Steven Croft and then with Jordan Clark.
Vilas himself made a glorious half-century, brought up from 97 balls and included eight sweetly-struck boundaries.
The dismissals of Croft for 36 – to a wonderful delivery from Josh Tongue – and then Clark for 31 to a needless launch down the ground, dented Lancashire hopes.
But they had batted their way back into contention by tea, standing on 217 for six, needing another 97 with Vilas unbeaten on 72.
The South African’s best partnership was still to come. He shared a wonderful century partnership with Bohannon which would prove to be the match-winning effort for Lancashire.
Neither looked troubled for the majority of their innings. Vilas received one life, dropped by Joe Clarke on 84.
But the pair showed tremendous determination and concentration to slowly eat away at the required runs and turn the game in favour of the hosts.
Captain Vilas made his vital century from 188 balls to a standing ovation around the ground, finishing unbeaten on 107 and Bohannon made a faultless 78 not out in just his second first-class match.
The partnership was worth 139 by the time they had taken Lancashire over the line.
Lancashire take 19 points from the game, lifting themselves off the bottom of the table and above Worcestershire – who take four points.
After looking destined for a defeat which would have gone a long way to sealing their relegation, this could prove to be a critical win for the Red Rose while damaging Worcestershire’s own survival hopes.
A relieved Vilas said afterwards: “It’s incredible (to win). We knew it was going to be tough chasing that on the last day. But it’s really crucial at this stage to get over the line and that’s a massive win for us.
“Getting to 50 was a nice milestone and it was nice to get in. We knew once you get in on the wicket you had to go big. Thankfully it was my day. I knew that I had to kick on and see the boys home.
“The team has some great players and guys who have scored runs over countless seasons. We know we have let ourselves down at times, we can’t hide from that.
“We knew we needed to be better but this team, when the questions are raised, the guys stand up.
“We know that we have underperformed – the bowlers have been incredible – I think we have let them down slightly. We know we need to put the runs on the board to help them out.
“Most important for me was the guys who came in to help me out. In the way that Bohey (Josh Bohannon) came in in only his second game, the maturity was incredible.