DeFreitas holds up Lancashire progress

Leicestershire 259 Lancashire 28-2
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The idea that all bar two runners can be discounted in the race for the Championship still finds no favour in Lancashire, despite the 42-point gap that must be closed if the Red Rose county, rather than Sussex, are to deprive Surrey of a fourth title in five years.

Lancashire base their hopes on a fixture list that sends them to Hove two weeks from now and brings the top two to Old Trafford. They also feel strongly that a better deal from the weather would have seen them in closer contention.

Their draw at Edgbaston last weekend was their seventh in nine matches. In the majority, they had been in a strong position only for rain to intervene.

It rained yesterday, but only for an hour. In the time left, Lancashire dismissed Leicestershire for 259 and it might have been for fewer had they bowled consistently well throughout on a pitch aiding movement off the seam.

At one stage, Leicestershire were 146 for 6, only Darren Stevens able to stick around long enough to make an impression among the upper-order batsmen. But they were let off the hook as Lancashire's seam bowlers failed to keep up the pressure and a half-century from the 37-year-old captain, Philip DeFreitas, made the decision to bat first look wiser than it otherwise might.

Lancashire perhaps should have turned earlier to Gary Keedy, their capable left-arm spinner, who showed he has recovered from a recent bout of appendicitis by taking 4 for 17.

Lancashire's response did not start well against a new-ball pairing restored to full veteran class by the return of Devon Malcolm, aged 40, after an 11-week lay-off due to knee surgery, DeFreitas dismissing Mark Chilton with some late swing before Alec Swann chopped on to his stumps as Malcolm sent down the last ball of the day.

* Ed Smith equalled the Kent record of Frank Woolley, set in 1929, by scoring his fourth successive Championship century. Smith was ninth out for 108, his fifth century in six innings, as his side collapsed to 189 all out at Canterbury yesterday. In reply, Essex struggled to 164 for 7.