Horton gives Lancashire hope
A thrilling final day beckons at Liverpool as Lancashire chase the victory over Hampshire that could prove decisive in their bid for the LV= County Championship title.
The hosts ended today on 195 for two in the second innings, leading by 202 and in a strong enough position to declare early tomorrow in an attempt to bowl Hampshire out again.
That would represent a significant feat on a pitch which, though offering appreciable turn, continues to favour the batsmen, but the hopes of a Lancashire win were distinctly brighter when the players left the field than a matter of hours earlier.
Hampshire, in being dismissed for 381 on the back of Sean Ervine’s magnificent 128, extended their first innings into the afternoon session and limited Lancashire’s lead to just seven.
However, Paul Horton and Stephen Moore batted with sufficient purpose - and considerable style - after tea to restore Lancashire’s dominance of this contest.
One sensed the anticipation rising among a 1,400-strong Aigburth crowd, whose hopes of a positive result tomorrow are further buoyed by Hampshire’s equal desire to win this game to preserve their faint hopes of avoiding relegation – and the risks that entails in a potential fourth-innings chase.
A rare black mark for Lancashire on a day that ended with the ground bathed in sunshine was Horton’s dismissal for 96.
It was the fourth time he has fallen in the 90s in the championship this summer, but his patent disappointment at missing out on a first century will have been eased by the reception he received from team-mates and spectators alike.
It was an innings of the highest calibre, notable for the excellence of his footwork against left-arm spinner Danny Briggs and containing a memorable six over long-on that had Lancashire coach Peter Moores purring in the press tent.
Horton and Moore ran with nothing less than the utmost urgency during an opening stand of 168 – comfortably Lancashire’s highest of the season – and an increasingly fluent Moore continued to prosper as he reached the close on 77.
Horton perished five overs earlier, top-edging a sweep off Briggs to deep square-leg, where Dimitri Mascarenhas took a low catch running in.
Even the departure of captain Glen Chapple, whose promotion to number three met with limited success before he fell in similar fashion, failed to take the gloss off a wonderfully entertaining day’s cricket. The same could be said of the season as a whole.
If Ervine, who resumed this morning on 56, took the greatest credit for carrying Hampshire to within touching distance of Lancashire’s first-innings 388, his lower-order colleagues played valuable supporting roles.
Michael Bates progressed from 20 overnight to 43, helping extend the sixth-wicket stand to 88, before he was smartly taken by Karl Brown at short extra-cover off Gary Keedy.
Mascarenhas hoisted Simon Kerrigan over the press tent during his 11 overs at the crease, but had steered the same bowler to Tom Smith at gully by the time Ervine, playing predominantly off the back foot, tucked an umpteenth single off his legs to bring up a 169-ball century, his first of the season.
Although Chris Wood swatted Keedy to mid-off in the penultimate over before lunch, it took the best part of an hour after the interval for Lancashire remove Briggs and Ervine.
In driving Chapple low to Steven Croft at cover, Briggs perished for 29 and became the only batsman in the innings not to succumb to spin.
Croft himself collected the last wicket when Ervine, clearly with little faith in James Tomlinson’s batting ability, holed out at long-on. It ended an innings spanning 212 deliveries and containing six fours and a six.
Slow left-armer Keedy finished with 5-93 in what could prove to be his final home game for Lancashire – he is reported to be on the verge of joining Warwickshire – but his greatest contribution may well come tomorrow.