Lancashire fire burns bright
Lancashire’s top order delivered when it mattered most as they fought their way back into the LV= County Championship title race on a dominant second day at Taunton.
Paul Horton, Stephen Moore and Karl Brown each made half-centuries to help Lancashire to 247 for three midway through this enthralling contest.
That translated into a manageable deficit of 133 that appeared unlikely when Somerset resumed this morning on 314 for five.
But the hosts lost their last five wickets for 60 runs in being bowled out for 380 – Gary Keedy finished with 4-57 and James Hildreth went from 161 overnight to 186 – before Lancashire’s batsmen performed a similarly impressive job.
Horton made 50, Moore 68 and Brown 60. Despite the fact none have been prolific this summer, they batted with sufficient purpose to raise the prospect of a first-innings lead that will greatly enhance their prospects of victory – and hopes of championship glory at the expense of a Warwickshire side who began this round of matches three points ahead.
The trio played with great comfort for the large part, but the increasing turn extracted by Murali Kartik, who was responsible for all three wickets, late in the day on a hitherto reliable surface will surely encourage Lancashire’s pair of left-arm spinners, Keedy and Simon Kerrigan.
That Lancashire could afford to lose Moore and Brown in the space of six overs and still consider themselves content with their day’s work reflected the manner in which they batted for much of a sun-drenched afternoon.
An opening stand of 104 between Horton and Moore – their second in succession which breached three figures – laid the platform, both capitalising on ill-disciplined new-ball bowling from Gemaal Hussain in particular.
There were ample opportunities for both to drive, and their dominance was such that Horton’s demise – immediately after bringing up an 80-ball half-century – came as something of a surprise.
He was caught behind making room to cut Kartik, who nonetheless resorted to bowling over the wicket and into the batsmen’s pads as Moore and Brown added 102 for the second wicket.
If Brown was the more pleasing on the eye – he timed the ball sweetly on both sides of the wicket – Moore’s contribution was no less important, which made his disappointment at pulling a Kartik long hop to Chris Jones at deep square-leg all the more acute.
Brown, whose fifty spanned 91 balls – 26 fewer than Moore – perished when he pushed forward at Kartik and edged to slip, where Peter Trego took a one-handed catch low to his right that the batsman, and his Lancashire team-mates on the dressing room balcony square of the wicket, felt did not carry.
By now Kartik and the rather less reliable Arul Suppiah were enjoying bowling on a surface that is likely to break up over the next 48 hours, but Luke Procter and Steven Croft survived the occasional alarm in negotiating the remaining eight overs.
Given that Hildreth reckoned a total of 400 was par on a surface as true as this, Lancashire could take satisfaction from bowling Somerset out shortly after lunch despite rain interrupting the morning session by 40 minutes.
If Kyle Hogg made the initial breakthrough, having Craig Meschede caught behind via glove as he fended at a lifter to earn Lancashire a second bonus point, Tom Smith landed the most important blow when he drew Hildreth into a leaden-footed waft outside off stump.
Horton held a smart catch at first slip in that instance, but Lancashire were thankful that drops by Moore and Hogg - to reprieve Alfonso Thomas and Kartik respectively - did not prove too costly.
Both fell lbw to Keedy before Steve Kirby, sweeping, was trapped in front by Kerrigan in the first full over after lunch.