Lancashire have been relegated to Division Two of the County Championship after failing to beat Middlesex at Emirates Old Trafford.
The draw between the two sides means the autopsy can finally begin on the Red Rose’s woeful season, their first back in the top flight.
A bridge too far
It has not gone unnoticed that the two relegated sides – Lancashire and Northants – were also the two newly-promoted ones.
Their respective coaches, Glen Chapple and David Ripley, have both lamented the gulf in class between the two divisions, with the resources available to the top clubs dwarfing those of the smaller counties.
That is perhaps more applicable to Northants than Lancashire, who can in no way be described as one of domestic cricket’s minnows, but their time in Division Two is clearly still having an impact on them.
Demotion marks the end of a difficult season, which began with then head coach Peter Moores quitting to take charge of England.
Chapple had been given a difficult job, and staving off relegation was realistically the main aim. It remains to be seen whether the all-rounder will be in charge when they look to bounce back, or whether the board will opt for a more experienced coach.
At present, he looks set to carry on playing for one more season, and it may take some of the pressure off if he were to revert to being solely responsible for his own performance.
Joy for Middlesex
Middlesex must know they have cut it fine, but they will be in the top tier for a fourth successive year.
The tenacity with which they batted out the final day suggests they deserved to stay up, even after Lancashire had got the required batting points on Thursday.
Lancashire have looked like a fallen side for quite some time. The frustration inside the ground was palpable as Jos Buttler dropped John Simpson, amidst a resounding feeling that this was not to be the match to save them.
Middlesex were admittedly fortunate to be batting on a fairly helpful wicket, but it still remained for Tim Murtagh (29 not out) and James Harris (41 not out) to stay in after tea to ensure the draw.
Director of cricket Angus Fraser praised his side’s character, telling BBC Sport: “We’ve been put under the pump and shown a lot of character. That is maybe something that has been questioned in our side.”
“It’s a very talented side, with some really good cricketers in there, but we do play some soft cricket at times.”
Middlesex have the close-season to put that right, but for Lancashire, they are now tasked with ensuring their squad is strong enough to spend just one season in Division Two.