ADAM LYTH fell two runs short of recording the highest individual innings in the long history of Roses cricket and then pronounced himself ready to play for England.
The Yorkshire batsman scored a career-best 251 at Old Trafford to help the Championship leaders to 610-6 declared – a record total in Roses matches.
Lyth’s innings was just shy of Darren Lehmann’s 252 for Yorkshire at Headingley in 2001, and only the eighth double hundred in games between the sides.
It was only Yorkshire’s second double century at the Manchester venue after Len Hutton’s 201 in 1949, a match in which Fred Trueman made his Championship debut.
Lyth’s display was not only a fillip to his team’s title ambitions but to his aspirations of playing Test cricket.
After Lancashire ended day three on 144-2, a deficit of 188, he declared himself primed to make the step up.
“The way I’ve played this season, I think I’m ready to step up to international colours,” said Lyth, who eclipsed his previous best score of 248 against Leicestershire at Grace Road in 2012.
“Obviously I’ve got to get the call first, and all I can do is keep scoring runs.”
Lyth’s focus is on trying to help Yorkshire to their first title since 2001, and their first silverware of any description since 2002.
Victory here, along with defeat for second-placed Nottinghamshire at Durham, would give Yorkshire a 26-point cushion over their East Midlands rivals ahead of next week’s meeting between the teams at Trent Bridge.
“We’re in a great position and a win here would be fantastic,” said Lyth.
“There’s not much for seam bowling on this pitch, but there’s quite a bit for spin bowling and hopefully we can get the job done.”
Lyth said he was told about Lehmann’s record during the lunch break, when he had 235 to his name.
But as history beckoned, Lyth danced down the track to the left-arm spin of Stephen Parry and chipped tamely to mid-on.
“I tried to play it along the floor for a single,” lamented Lyth.
“Next time I’m on 251, I think I’ll belt it out of the park.”
Lyth already had 182 when Yorkshire began the day on 396-5, a lead of 118.
It was a warm and sunny morning – perfect for batting – and Lyth carried on from where he left off in tandem with Adil Rashid, who resumed on 44.
Rashid needed just five balls of the day to reach his fifty, late-cutting the left-arm spin of Simon Kerrigan to the boundary and then dancing down the track to strike him to the mid-wicket rope.
Soon after, Lyth was celebrating his double century, reached from his 347th delivery with his 20th boundary – a firmly struck sweep off Kerrigan.
Lyth and Rashid accumulated steadily, and with apparent ease.
Twenty minutes before the break, Rashid went to his second hundred of the season, from his 169th ball, with a cover-driven boundary off Tom Smith that also took him past 5,000 first-class runs.
As the ball sped to the rope, Lyth joyfully threw his arms aloft while Rashid looked on nonchalantly, as though Lyth himself had played the stroke.
Yorkshire lunched on 526-5, having scored 130 in the morning in 32 overs.
As Lancashire wilted in the afternoon, Lyth and Rashid went past Yorkshire’s previous best for the sixth-wicket in first-class cricket – 276 between Maurice Leyland and Emmott Robinson against Glamorgan at Swansea in 1926.
Immediately, the Lancashire PA announcer – blissfully unaware – announced only that somebody’s vehicle was causing an obstruction in the car park.
The stand was worth 296 in 72 overs when Lyth finally fell, having faced 446 balls and struck 22 fours and a six.
Rashid finished on 159 not out from 228 balls with 20 fours and a six, Yorkshire eclipsing their previous Roses best of 590 at Bradford in 1887.
Leading by 332, four short of their highest first-innings lead against the old enemy, Yorkshire struck in the seventh over of Lancashire’s second innings when Ryan Sidebottom uprooted Luis Reece’s off stump.
Rashid had Paul Horton caught and bowled for 49 but Usman Khawaja (69) and Ashwell Prince (18) held firm.
Khawaja was dropped on 61 by wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow off Lyth before tensions boiled over in the closing stages, Yorkshire captain Andrew Gale having words with Prince as the batsman attempted to waste time.
It was much ado about nothing – unlike Lyth’s masterful innings.
Less than 350 tickets remain for the one-day international between England and India at Headingley on Friday.
For further details, visit www.yorkshireccc.com/odi or ring 0843 5043099.
Scorecard: Page 22.