A BATTLING century from Lancashire’s Rob Jones took his side to within 47 runs off pulling off a record-breaking run chase against victors Essex on a thrilling final day of this LV=Insurance County Championship Division One clash at Blackpool, writes JAMIE BOWMAN.

An overnight declaration from the visitors on 292 for eight left Lancashire requiring an unlikely 430 runs to win - their highest ever to win a county game and a considerable improvement on their first innings total of just 145.

As it was, Jones’ brilliant 111 along with half-centuries from Luke Wells and Josh Bohannon, made for an enthralling contest in which all results were possible going into the last hour and which ended with Essex fielders crowded around the bat as Lancashire finally succumbed with ten balls to go when a heartbroken Jones edged Doug Bracewell to Dan Lawrence.

Essex skipper Tom Westley said: "It's an unbelievable win - because the points for the draw have been taken away we did expect them to keep going for the win for a long time and testament to them they did - even when (Tom) Bailey came out they were looking to hit boundaries. Credit to them for wanting to force the win.

"It was an outstanding team performance from Essex and it puts us in a nice position with five games to go.

"We've been blessed for a number of years now that Simon Harmer will take six or seven wicket in the fourth innings but he didn't take one today and that's the way it goes sometimes so for the other lads to stick their hands up and chip in with wickets is outstanding. 

"Lancashire are a very good team and we know how dangerous they are - we've had some great matches with them in recent times so it's a huge win for the club." 

In a game where opening batters had struggled, Keaton Jennings and Wells got Lancashire off to an encouraging start with Wells quickly shrugging off the burden of being on a pair with an attacking knock that had the Lancashire support dreaming of the Red Rose’s biggest ever fourth innings chase.


Taking the attack to Simon Harmer, Wells swept the South African for six, and laid down a template for what became a near perfect morning session for the hosts in which Jennings was the only wicket to fall, caught spectacularly one-handed by wicketkeeper William Buttleman off Bracewell for 30.

At lunch and with excitement growing around this beautiful ground, the hosts were 140 for one with Wells going nicely on 69 not out and Bohannon unbeaten on 32.

Record books were checked and we began again after lunch as the game titled back towards Essex with Wells only able to add six more runs before he reverse swept Matt Critchley into the hands of a diving Paul Walter.

Two down quickly became three down with the horribly out of form Dane Vilas completing a pair in the match when he walked all around a Critchley wrong ‘un to give the Lancashire-born all-rounder two in the over and leave the home side 155 for three.

Jones joined Bohannon in the middle for what felt like a pivotal partnership and so it proved as the pair not only staged a recovery but also upped the run rate and took the attack to Essex before the latter was caught pulling by Porter off Walter for a well-made 68 that included three sixes.

The incoming Phil Salt took over as he and Jones continued the run-chase with a degree of calm urgency that belied the situation. Jones, so often a bit-part player in Lancashire’s four day side, rose to the occasion, playing the situation perfectly as the fifth wicket pair constructed a crucial partnership of 85.

Critchley was beginning to make a difference bowling round the wicket into the rough from the North End and Salt became his third victim when he top-edged to Sam Cook on the fine leg boundary for 41 to make it 279 for five.

Colin de Grandhomme came and went for just nine after hooking Walter to Porter while Tom Hartley hung around long enough to hit 17 and further raise hopes of improbable victory before he edged Cook to Buttleman.

While Jones remained so did the chance of a win but with Jack Blatherwick and Tom Bailey adding just nine runs between them the situation suddenly worsened especially when the latter fell to a brilliant diving catch in the deep by Harmer off Bracewell with 54 runs still needed and just one wicket required for an Essex win.

For the first time throughout the day Lancashire finally dug in as Jones and a steadfast Will Williams battled to see out the remaining 44 balls with the final stand ending in the penultimate over as Essex clinched a last-gasp 46 run victory through Bracewell who ended with three for 50.