Luis Reece led a dominant day for Lancashire against Leicestershire at Grace Road today with a Championship best 85.
The opening batsman was also joined in passing fifty by opening partner Paul Horton and run-machine Simon Katich as the visitors closed on 303-5 from 96 overs.
The Red Rose are pleased with their start to their eleventh LV= County Championship match against the Division Two’s bottom side having won the toss and made use of a pitch which offered early assistance to the bowlers and then flattened out.
Reece and Horton, back for his first Championship match since early May due to a twice dislocated right ring finger, built a platform with a stand of 104 inside 33 overs. It was the first hundred partnership of the season for the first wicket, beating the 99 between Reece and Karl Brown in the most recent match against Glamorgan at Emirates Old Trafford.
Reece’s innings, which included 12 fours off 160 balls, was not his first-class best score. Ironically, that also came here in late April when captaining Leeds/Bradford MCC Universities to a three-day win. He posted 114 not out in that match.
He would have been desperate to have posted his maiden first-class and Championship centuries at the same ground, but it was not to be as he was one of two wickets to fall inside three balls during the afternoon as Lancashire were reduced to 181-3.
Leicestershire actually enjoyed their best session between lunch and tea as they claimed three wickets.
But, after Horton had posted 54, Katich notched 50 or more for the eighth time this season after tea. He was out for 62 late on having topped 900 runs in the Championship this season in the process. Procter will resume tomorrow morning on 37 not out with Tom Smith for company.
“I think we’re happy,” said impressive Reece. “303-5 is a pretty good day. We would have settled for that. If we can get 400-400 plus, I think it will have been a good first innings for us.
“I’d have taken 85 over a duck any day of the week. But to get so close and then get out is frustrating. If someone had offered me 85 at the start of the day, I’d have bitten their hand off. I’m pleased, but frustrated as well.”
The match started in bizarre fashion. Horton could have been dismissed to the first ball in two different ways. First he survived an lbw shout from Matthew Hoggard before being out of his ground when a shy at the stumps missed from square-leg.
But he and Reece batted positively. Both men drove strongly, while Reece was happy to take on spin and seam. He lofted spinner James Sykes over the top for four on a couple of occasions and was not afraid to pull or hook when tested out regularly.
Horton fell to a one-handed stunner from Ollie Freckingham at mid-wicket five balls into the afternoon session off new ball bowler Alex Wyatt, who finished with 1-43 from 22 overs.
Ashwell Prince and Reece shared 77 for the second wicket before both falling within three balls to leave the score at 181-3 in the 55th over. Prince top-edged a pull at Michael Thornely’s medium pace to mid-wicket before Reece edged to slip as he drove at Tom Wells.
Andrea Agathangelou was the fourth man to go, his departure coming after tea when he was caught behind off Freckingham, before Katich and Procter shared 62 for the fifth wicket. Katich fell caught behind to Hoggard with the second new ball in the 89th over.
Reece also admitted that scoring runs here for the students in April helped him to settle. He added: “It definitely helped. It was a different scenario then because we were the underdogs. I played with a bit of freedom through the middle and batting with eight, nine, ten and eleven. I played a few more shots.
“But it’s certainly nice to know that you’ve done well at a certain ground before because it gives you confidence.”
Picture: Simon Pendrigh