Paul Horton picked the perfect day to notch his highest Championship score since early June of last year to help Lancashire to a confidence boosting three-day victory over bottom side Worcestershire at Old Trafford today.
The 26 year-old opener recorded a patient 77 off 170 balls, with ten fours included, to help the Red Rose chase down 264 for the loss of just three wickets.
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The 17 points for the win keeps the hosts in the hunt in terms of the LV Division One title race, but defeat would have put them in danger of another relegation fight. Worcestershire have still not won a game all season, and remain rooted to the foot of the table.
Horton was helped along by Mark Chilton’s 45 off 142 balls, and the pair shared 109 for the second wicket after the early loss of Mal Loye. VVS Laxman later hit an unbeaten 64 off 93 balls, and Steven Croft 40 not out off 81. They shared an unbroken 91 for the fourth wicket.
“This was very important because the last three games didn’t go to plan. It’s good to have a win under your belt, and have a positive frame of mind for Birmingham,” said Laxman, who is already looking forward to Warwickshire at Edgbaston on Wednesday.
“The pace was set very well by Horts and Mal. The way both of them batted gave a lot of confidence to the boys. We talked a lot about partnerships. We had one big hundred run partnership, and it was good that everybody contributed.”
Loye was trapped lbw by Matt Mason in the fourth over of the day, the 17th of the innings, for 17 to leave the score at 42-1. The Red Rose had added just two more to their overnight score. But Horton and Chilton dampened the threat posed by Mason, who had eight wickets in the match to his name, and picked off the runs from new ball partner Ashley Noffke in particular. The Red Rose went into lunch at 99-1, and needed another 165 to win in five available sessions.
Horton reached his third Championship fifty of the season with a back foot punched boundary, the milestone coming up off 121 balls with six boundaries. The pitch seemed to have slowed up during the day, and the swing present during the first two days died down. The pair recorded their hundred partnership in the 56th over, and Worcester captain Vikram Solanki was running out of options. But he was at least given a glimmer by off-spinner Gareth Batty in the next over when he removed Horton caught by Daryl Mitchell at first slip. It left Lancashire at 151-2. And the England one-day man gave the Pears further hope five overs later when Chilton lunged forward and looped a catch to Ben Smith at short-leg.
Rain later forced the umpires to call an early tea with Lancashire at 184-3, and needing another 80 for the win. Laxman had reached 23 at this stage, and later confirmed his first four-day fifty of his second spell with the county off 72 balls with five fours. He later added one more with Croft’s aggressive effort for company.
Lancashire remain fourth in the table ahead of Wednesday’s trip to Edgbaston: “Our aim is definitely to win the Championship. We have got eight or nine games to go, and we have got to take each game as it comes,” added Laxman.
Captain Glen Chapple added: “We have shown we are quite good under pressure chasing scores down, so we were confident in that respect. We had to play positively and back ourselves.
“Chilly and Paul both played well with a hundred partnership, which is the benchmark you look for in four-day cricket. That gave us a great platform. Laxman and Crofty played their own game, and we didn’t feel under too much pressure in the dressing room.”
[Day 1 Report I Day 2 Report}
Photos: Clint Hughes
(c) Lancashire CCC Ltd