Lancashire are on course to beat Worcestershire and win their seventh LV= County Championship match of the season after a dominant third day display at New Road.
The Red Rose county pressed 154 runs ahead of the home side’s 287 all out in their first innings during the first session and a half of today’s play, with Tom Smith and Luke Procter both excelling with 84 and 76 respectively.
And although excellent Worcester batsman Moeen Ali scored his second century of the match, an unbeaten 101, his side are still behind the eight-ball having closed on 166-5, a lead of only 12.
“It will be a tough day tomorrow with five more wickets to get and chase down whatever they set us for another win,” said Smith.
“Moeen’s a class act. He got a hundred in the first dig and a hundred in the second. He looked very composed. They’ve got a solid batting order, and on that pitch, it’s a flat pitch, you’ve got to work hard for every single wicket you take.
“We’ll come back tomorrow and start again. We’re confident of chasing down whatever they set us.”
Prolific Australian overseas star Simon Katich only added one more run to his overnight 104 before he steered Jack Shantry to a tumbling Thilan Samaraweera only seven balls into the day, leaving the score at 276-6.
Smith and Procter then shared a brilliant seventh-wicket partnership of 136 in 35 overs, the highest stand of the match to date, to take the Red Rose to the maximum five batting bonus points for the first time this season.
Both scored at a good rate. And after Smith posted his first fifty this season off 75 balls with seven fours, Procter notched his fourth fifty in four innings off 82 shortly afterwards.
Procter then flicked Shantry for six over mid-wicket before 400 was reached. But he was brilliantly caught one-handed by a diving Shantry at wide mid-on off Alan Richardson, who ended up the pick of the home bowlers with 4-103 from 33 overs.
Procter fell having also hit nine fours in 117 balls to leave the score at 412-7, and it proved to be the first of four wickets to fall for 29 runs to wrap up the innings at 441.
Gareth Cross and Kyle Hogg were both caught behind off Richardson and Graeme Cessford, who also finished with four wickets, respectively before Smith was caught behind down the leg-side off the latter having hit eleven boundaries in 125 balls.
“Me and Proccy get on well, and we’ve got a good understanding in the middle,” said Smith. “Today we knew we had to put a good partnership together. It was one of those days when everything came together for us. Proccy batted really well, but he has done all year. It was just good to get out there and spend some time in the middle.”
Lancashire’s bowlers then made a racing start to Worcester’s second innings. New ball pair of Hogg and Glen Chapple struck once apiece in the first eight overs. Hogg had Matt Pardoe caught behind for a duck and captain Chapple trapped his opposite number Daryl Mitchell lbw to leave the score at 15-2.
Ali and Sri Lankan Samaraweera then shared 64 for the third wicket either side of tea, including 30 of those in the first four overs of the evening session and 18 off one Arron Lilley over, including two sixes and a four for Ali as he reached another fifty.
But Smith gained some revenge on the pair in the next over, the 22nd, when he trapped the Sri Lankan lbw to leave the score at 79-3.
Chapple later returned to the attack to get Tom Fell caught at first slip by Smith with 113 on the board in the 33rd over before Ross Whiteley was caught at short-leg by Andrea Agathangelou off Lilley.
Moeen then brought up his second ton of the match, the first Pear to achieve that feat in three years, off 134 balls. He will be joined at the crease in the morning by night-watchman Shantry.
Picture (c) Simon Pendrigh