Paul Horton's ninth first-class hundred ensured Lancashire pressed home their advantage after two days of this entertaining LV= County Championship match against Essex at Chelmsford today.
Horton compiled an important 123 off 262 balls to help Lancashire reach 312 in reply to the home side’s 176 all out today. James Anderson, having claimed six wickets on yesterday’s opening day, then steamed in to add another two to his tally as Essex slumped to 30-2 their second innings tonight.
Essex could even have been three down had Jaik Mickleburgh not been called back to the crease by umpire Nigel Llong, standing at point, after being given out caught and bowled from an absolute snorter by Anderson.
Umpire Peter Willey made the call but Llong felt the ball ricocheted back to Anderson straight off the youngster’s helmet rather than flicking his glove on the way through. Horton said the decision was “the right thing for the game of cricket”.
Faced with a first innings deficit of 136, England opener Alastair Cook at least guided his side to 46-2 from 19 overs. They still trail by 90, and a three-day finish is well and truly on the cards.
Horton said: “Jimmy always adds a different dimension to our side. He’s a magnificent bowler and a great asset. It’s great to have a spearhead who’s different class.”
Horton and Steven Croft shared a sixth wicket partnership of 130 in 38 overs through the latter stages of the morning session and most of the afternoon after the visitors had been reduced to 134-5.
Lancashire started the day at 83-3, and Horton and Ashwell Prince added another 42 runs before the South African drove David Masters to Mark Pettini at mid-off. And, when Mark Chilton edged Chris Wright behind to wicketkeeper James Foster, Lancs were five down in the 40th over.
Croft scored his third 50 in three innings. But, having hit seven fours, he was the only wicket to fall between lunch and tea when he dragged onto his stumps for 56 to give Ryan ten Doeschate his only wicket.
Luke Sutton was then caught in the slips by Tim Phillips off Masters and Glen Chapple drove Wright to ten Doeschate at cover to leave the score at 288-8 in the 90th. Sajid Mahmood hit three boundaries in a breezy 14 to confirm 300 and a third batting point before he was castled by Wright.
And Horton was the last man out when he inside edged Wright behind to the safe hands of Foster. Masters finished with the pick of the figures with 4-81 from 29 overs, while Wright claimed 3-76 from 16.2.
Horton has been in solid form against the new ball in each of last three seasons, and he is fast closing in on 4,000 first-class runs. But this was his first real chance to get used to batting at No.3 after making way at the top of the order for new signing Stephen Moore and Tom Smith.
He continued: “It was fantastic to get a hundred, and nice to spend some time at the crease.
“To be in overnight was important. This morning I had to see off the new ball and cash in when the ball was a bit older. Any lead we got was going to be crucial on that sort of wicket, and we managed to eke out 130.
“It would be easy for me to say it’s a poor wicket when I’ve just got 130 on it, but there’s a little bit of seam movement and variable bounce. I got rapped on the gloves, and you’ve seen a guy get hit on the head.”
Anderson then had both Billy Godleman and John Maunders trapped lbw, leaving Mickleburgh and Alastair Cook (29) to resume in the morning.
Horton added: “Cook is obviously a big wicket, but hopefully the wicket will juice up again so we can have them four down pretty quickly.”
Graham Hardcastle at Chelmsford
Photo: Simon Pendrigh, Peakpix Digital Images
(c) Lancashire CCC Ltd