Neil Wagner continued his outstanding Lancashire debut with five more wickets to keep them on course for victory against Nottinghamshire in their first game back in Division One of the Specsavers County Championship.
The New Zealander had taken 6-66 in Nottinghamshire’s first innings and followed that up with a devastating burst in the evening sunshine which scuppered the visitors’ hopes of setting Lancashire a testing victory target.
Wagner ended with 5-45 in the second innings, and 11-111 in the match, and with Jimmy Anderson providing high-class support with 3-29 in 22.5 overs, Notts were dismissed for 175, leaving Lancashire needing only 86 to win on the last day.
Notts director of cricket Mick Newell said: “When we went out to bat today we knew we had to make about 300 to be competitive, but we are a long way short of that and therefore we need a minor miracle on the last day.
“Throughout the game the top six have under-scored and we’re disappointed with that because we had first use of the pitch.
“We wanted to bat first and were 98-6 on the first day, so I think we’ve been off the pace with the bat and that’s disappointing, given that we rattled up 440 against Surrey.
“Fair play to Neil Wagner, he’s had a terrific game, he’s run in hard and bowled bouncers and yorkers and mixed it up and been very effective.
“We need something like a Stuart Broad 8-15 now, but you feel in these situations you need to set a minimum of 130, 140, 150 but we’ve failed to do that, so it is going to take a bit of a miracle.”
Anderson, who had bowled well but without luck in 16 wicketless overs in the first innings, had to wait another 11 in the second as the Nottinghamshire openers battled to erase a deficit of 90.
But he finally had something to celebrate when he removed the off stump of former Lancashire allrounder Steven Mullaney, who ground out 21 from 104 balls in a stand of 52 in 35 overs.
That was the least Anderson deserved in an afternoon spell of 11-3-17-1 from the Pavilion End, and he returned after tea to win an lbw decision against Riki Wessels.
Then Wagner took over. He had already pinned Michael Lumb lbw with a full swinging delivery, but it was a brace of well-directed short balls that accounted for Samit Patel and Stuart Broad – helped by athletic catches by two of Lancashire’s youngsters, Liam Livingstone diving forwards at deep square leg to take Patel’s top-edged pull, and Haseeb Hameed diving to his right at short leg to snap up Broad.
In his next over Wagner bowled Jake Ball with a beauty that clipped the top of off stump, and he was on a hat-trick when he won another lbw decision against Jackson Bird, with another swinging yorker – his fourth wicket in 19 balls.
Harry Gurney denied Wagner the hat-trick but Anderson had him caught behind a couple of overs later, leaving Notts captain Chris Read, who had top-scored in their first innings with 52, unbeaten on 25.
Greg Smith was their top scorer in the second innings with a watchful 41 from 131 balls before he was deceived in the flight by Simon Kerrigan, who also bowled tidily.
At the start of the day Lancashire were only able to add 21 runs to their overnight total, with Ball claiming the key wicket of Livingstone - lbw for 70 off 124 balls, in his first innings in first-class cricket.
Ball ended with four for 63, giving the tall England Lions seamer 13 wickets in three innings so far this season.
But Notts now need something spectacular if they are to avoid following their opening victory against one of last season’s promoted teams, Surrey, with defeat against the others.
England star Anderson said: “I thought Neil Wagner was fantastic again, to take 11-for on his debut is something pretty special. He should be really proud of that.
“It couldn’t have gone any better for him. He is a fantastic guy, he loves playing, he wants to do well for the team and has so much energy on the field. “He never turns down the opportunity to have a bowl. He will be great for Crofty all year if he keeps going.
“He may lose a few inches in height if he keeps bowling on these wickets, but he has a fantastic attitude and is someone we are lucky to have in our dressing room.
“We want to get off to a good start and we have had three fantastic days to get us in a position to win the game, but we have to bat well to get over the line.
“We bowled really well, the fielders were brilliant too, throwing themselves around trying to save every run, knowing how crucial it was.
“It has been a real test for us. The pitch is as good as a Test pitch, there hasn’t been a huge amount there for the seam bowlers, so if you get in on it you can score runs on it.
“We knew we had to work hard for our wickets today, but we stuck at it and we got the rewards. It was a real battle.”