By Dominic Farrell
Paul Horton believes opening partner Luis Reece is ready to become a fixture at the top of the Lancashire order for many years having weathered a gruelling route to first-class recognition.
In the first half of this season, Red Rose candidates to face the new ball gave the impression of shuffling through a revolving door – a situation compounded by a lengthy spell on the sidelines for Horton due to a dislocated finger.
But he returned to find Taunton-born 23-year old Reece in situ and the pair quickly went about forming a fruitful alliance that helped to power Lancashire’s promotion charge over the line with two LV= County Championship Division Two matches to spare.
During last week’s high-scoring defeat at Kent, Horton and Reece brought up a fifth century stand in 10 attempts, while the latter’s 47 meant he ended the campaign with 722 runs at 55.53 from 16 innings, including an astonishing run of seven consecutive half-centuries.
Such impressive numbers follow a long apprenticeship that began when Reece made his Lancashire second XI debut in 2007, joining the club’s academy the following year.
But his first taste of first-class action came on the other side of the Pennines representing Leeds/Bradford MCCU, having earned his List-A stripes in 2011 and 2012 by playing for the Unicorns.
This summer began with the left-hander captaining Leeds/Bradford and putting in further hard yards for the seconds before his chance arrived when Glen Chapple’s side took on Essex at Chelmsford in June.
“We’ve all been impressed with Luis’s journey back into our set-up and then with the amount of runs that he’s scored,” Horton told ecb.co.uk.
“He got a very early double hundred for the second team at Old Trafford so that’s what earned him his spot in the side. He’s now making a real case to nail down the opening spot for years to come at Lancashire.
“He’s been a credit to a lot of hard work he’s put in over a long time – initially here, then away at university for Leeds/Bradford and finally coming back to join us and getting a go.
“He’s grabbed his chance with both hands and we hope he kicks on and has a fantastic season next season in Division One.”
Andrea Agathangelou has also enjoyed a breakthrough campaign in the Lancashire middle-order following an extended education in the second XI but Horton is quick to point towards the importance of two old hands in allowing Red Rose youngsters time in the side to develop and flourish.
Former South Africa Test star Ashwell Prince plundered a pair of centuries at Canterbury to finish as Lancashire’s leading run-scorer for the second successive season, while Australian veteran Simon Katich contributed four hundreds and six fifties at 73.13.
“It’s nice to have a batting line-up that has a lot of Test experience,” Horton added. “Simon and Ashwell have played a lot of Test cricket.
“They’re both fabulous cricketers who are coming towards the twilight of their careers and are probably at the height of their powers.
“When they’re enjoying their cricket they’re going to score a lot of runs for us, and they have done.
“We’ve been very fortunate that Katich has had a wonderful season, so has Ashwell and they’ve made our four-day batting. It’s great to have those guys in the middle order for us.”
Having posted three tons in the last four matches, Horton will be hoping for an injury free season and the chance to match the exploits of Prince and Katich when Lancashire resume top-flight cricket next term.