Lancashire face a crucial day on Saturday in their quest for the LV= County Championship title.
Some fabulous batting from Paul Horton and Stephen Moore in the latter half of the third day has given them a great chance of forcing victory against relegation threatened Hampshire at Liverpool.
Hampshire’s middle and lower order frustrated the hosts during the first session and a half, with centurion Sean Ervine leading the way as the Rose Bowl side posted a first innings total of 381 in reply to Lancashire's 388.
Lancashire started the day still leading by 159 and with a clear advantage in the match having taken five first innings wickets.
But Ervine, who amassed an uncharacteristically patient 128 off 212 balls, scored his third century in his last ten Championship innings against the Red Rose to virtually level the contest. He shared 88 inside 31 overs for the sixth wicket with Michael Bates (43), 37 in eleven for the seventh with Dimitri Mascarenhas and 59 inside 15 for the ninth with tail-ender Danny Briggs.
Red Rose openers Paul Horton, who hit a brilliant 96 off 137 balls, and Stephen Moore wrestled back the momentum with a first-wicket stand of 168 inside 45 overs, their highest of the summer so far.
And they closed day three on 195-2 from 50 overs, leading by 202 with Moore unbeaten on 77 off 151 balls.
However they will be well aware that title rivals Warwickshire are bang on course to beat Nottinghamshire at Edgbaston.
Assessing the day, Horton said: “If we hadn’t played that positively in the afternoon, the game would have petered out into a draw. We are trying to win a Championship, so hopefully we will be in a position to declare sometime and bowl them out.
“If we win this game and the next one, we have a chance of winning the title, and that is what we are trying to do.”
Horton was the main aggressor, not afraid to hit the spin of Briggs over the top. He brought up his half-century off 76 balls, later lofting Briggs over wide long-on for six.
The pair ran superbly between the wickets, but Horton could only posted his fourth Championship score in the nineties this summer when he top-edged a sweep off Briggs to long-leg.
Nevertheless, it was a brilliant knock, and he rightly received a standing ovation on his way off the field.
Moore had reached his fifty off 122 balls before Horton perished, and he was joined by skipper Glen Chapple, promoted up the order to number three in search of quick runs.
Chapple also fell to Briggs before the close, top-edging a slog-sweep to Ervine in front of square on the leg-side.
Earlier, left-arm spinner Gary Keedy finished with figures of 5-93 from 37 overs, picking up the wickets of Bates and Chris Wood.
Kerrigan also struck, getting Mascarenhas. while Chapple took his 50th wicket of the campaign when he had Briggs caught at cover by Steven Croft, and the catcher wrapped up the innings by getting Ervine midway through the afternoon.
Horton added: “300 is what everyone is looking at on the final day. It depends how quickly we score. I don’t think it would be anything less than 300. We don’t want to be too generous, and the more runs we have the more fielders we can have around the bat to create pressure.
“Hampshire have to go for it otherwise they will be relegated, so they have to play positive cricket as well. We are going to be positive. If we lose to Hampshire in trying to win the Championship, so be it.”
Hampshire all-rounder Ervine strongly indicated to the South Coast media that the visitors will chase whatever target they are set tomorrow.
It promises to be a fascinating day.
Day 1 Report I Day 2 Report
Photo (c) Simon Pendrigh
Article (c) Lancashire County Cricket Club