Lancashire hit back superbly to dominate the second day of their LV= County Championship match against Somerset at Taunton today as the title race reaches a thrilling and tense crescendo.
Left-arm spinner Gary Keedy completed figures of 4-57 from 28 overs as the home side were bowled out for 380 having started the day at 314-5. And then Paul Horton, Stephen Moore and Karl Brown all scored impressive and contrasting half-centuries in a commanding response of 247-3 from 71 overs.
The Red Rose county, whose title dreams are still firmly alive, head into tomorrow’s third day trailing by 133 runs with Luke Procter and Steven Croft at the crease and in the midst of a fourth wicket alliance that currently stands at 28.
“We are in a good mood, and in a good position,” said Moore. “We have to win this game to give ourselves a chance of winning the title. We can’t control what is going on elsewhere, so we are doing what we have done all season - playing our cricket in a positive manner.
“We felt if we could get them out for less than 400, we would be giving ourselves a good chance. It is a good wicket. But, with two spinners in our side, we can put pressure on them in the second innings.
“We are in a good position to get full bonus points with the bat, and that will be our first goal. If we do that we will be in a very good position in the game. Every point is going to make a difference.
“It is a lovely pitch. I have been hoping for one of those all year!
“It is taking turn. Keedy and Kerrigan will turn it on anything, so we are confident we can get something out of the wicket if we need to accelerate the game.”
Horton was the main protagonist in setting Lancashire on their way with the bat thanks to 50 off 80 balls, sharing 104 inside 25 overs for the first wicket with Moore, who backed up his unbeaten 169 against Hampshire at Liverpool last week with a patient innings.
Horton became the first Lancashire player since Trevor Jesty in 1989 to score 1,000 first-class runs in a season without scoring a century during his innings, but he was caught behind as he tried to cut former team-mate Kartik Murali.
If he gets the chance to bat again later in this match, he will need 15 more to reach 1,000 Championship runs.
Moore reached his 50 off 117 balls, uniting with stylish Brown, who played a number of eye-catching strokes through the leg-side as he passed 850 runs for the season.
All three half-centurions brought up their fifties with nine fours, with Brown reaching his off 91 balls.
He shared 102 inside 32 overs for the second wicket with Moore, who broke the alliance by pulling a Kartik short ball down the throat of Chris Jones at deep backward square-leg to fall for 68.
Brown was then caught at first slip by Peter Trego off the same bowler for 60, leaving the score at 219-3 after 63 overs, although there was a brief question-mark as to whether the ball had carried to the fielder.
But Procter and Croft, who closed the day on 20 not out, batted through to close without any further alarms. Croft even hit a four through cover and a straight six off the left-arm spin of Arul Suppiah as the day’s end approached.
Earlier, James Hildreth missed out on a double hundred as he was one of five Somerset wickets to fall for 66 runs. Hildreth was caught at first slip by Horton off Tom Smith’s bowling for 186, leaving the score at 352-7.
Kyle Hogg had provided the breakthrough when he had Craig Meschede caught behind by Gareth Cross with a sharp lifting delivery.
Keedy then trapped Kartik and Alfonso Thomas lbw prior to lunch before fellow left-armer Simon Kerrigan trapped Steve Kirby lbw five balls into the afternoon session to wrap up the innings.
Meanwhile, Division One leaders Warwickshire posted 493 in their first innings against Hampshire at the Rose Bowl, with the hosts replying with 57-0 from 20 overs.
Moore added: “We turn up at every game prepared to go to the very last ball of the last day. This season we have done that a few more times than we would have liked. But we are the kind of side who don’t mind doing that.”