Lancashire kept alive their hopes of survival in division one of the County Championship after they recovered from a potentially damaging 160-5 to close on 259-6 on day two of their crucial clash with Middlesex at Old Trafford.
Day one saw Lancashire in control of the match after Middlesex's captain, Australian Chris Rogers, decided to bat first after winning the toss, a decision many onlookers believed to be the wrong one.
The visitors were dismissed for just 214 but their solitary batting bonus point, gained late in the day, could prove to be vital in deciding whether it is Middlesex or their hosts who are relegated to Division Two.
Before the game Lancashire knew they had to win the match and achieve 19 more points than their rivals to escape relegation. Therefore every bonus point is crucial for both sides.
After dismissing Middlesex for 214, but allowing them a bonus point, Lancashire knew they had to bat well in their first innings to stand any chance of surviving.
However, at 160-5 Lancashire were in danger of surrendering their Division One status until, firstly Steven Croft (60), and then an unbeaten seventh wicket stand of 38 between Luke Proctor (37) and captain Glenn Chapple (21) gave Lancashire a chance going into day three.
By the end of day two Lancashire had captured five bonus points and Middlesex two.
Day three crucial
Day three's morning session will now be crucial for both sides. The first 14 overs are key as bonus points can only be awarded in the first 110 overs of each first innings.
In those 14 overs Lancashire will need to score another 41 runs without losing more than two wickets. That will ensure that they gain a further batting point and stop Middlesex from gaining another crucial bowling bonus point.
If Middlesex claim three wickets in those 14 overs, and earn another point, then Lancashire will need to reach 350, an unlikely scenario for the home side. Middlesex stand a very good chance of taking early wickets as the 10.30 start will be more helpful to their bowlers particularly at this time of year.
If all goes to plan for the Red Rose county then they will need to push for victory on days three and four and bowl Middlesex out once again to keep alive their hopes. However, Middlesex will not go down without a fight.
If relegation is ultimately confirmed for Lancashire then it will be another blow to the Old Trafford side after they have watched on all season as arch-rivals Yorkshire took the league by storm and captured their 31st Championship title.
Will Lancashire be favourites to win Division Two in 2015 if they are relegated?
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