Horton leads Lancashire fightback as Onions falters

Lancashire 313 Durham
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The Independent Online

The pitch here is the kind that can make it difficult to assess the merits of the score achieved by the side batting first, but when Lancashire were 9 for 2 and riding their luck in the morning session they would have seen 313 all out as more than satisfactory.

Batting was certainly hard work initially as the sides occupying the first two places in the First Division table locked horns. Durham again had to manage without Steve Harmison, who missed several matches with a broken arm and now has a back problem, but welcomed back Graham Onions for the next stage of a rehabilitation programme being supervised by England.

The colour of the pitch suggested it would serve the bowlers' interests, and, although Durham had been chastened somewhat when Somerset scored 610 after being asked to bat first on a similarly green-tinged surface here three weeks ago, they backed their seam attack again when skipper Phil Mustard won the toss.

They were rewarded rapidly. Stephen Moore edged Callum Thorp to third slip and then Onions produced a lovely delivery to induce a nick from Karl Brown and the first of three slip catches taken by Michael Di Venuto.

Paul Horton, who had survived a loud appeal for leg before by Onions off the first ball of the match, had a lucky escape on 1 when a hard edge just eluded first slip, and another on 18 when another uncontrolled shot flew close to point. Mark Chilton, meanwhile, was given the benefit of the doubt when he had scored only a single after Onions thought he had gloved a catch behind.

Onions, watched by England selector James Whitaker and with a vacancy to fill for the second Test at Lord's after the injury to James Anderson, seemed determined to make the right impression. Yet in the event, against expectations, Lancashire mounted a successful fightback, and Onions probably slipped behind Steven Finn as the man to step into Anderson's boots.

He and Mitch Claydon were both guilty of bowling a little too short and Lancashire built effectively around what eventually developed into a fine innings from Horton, who deserved better than to end six runs short of a century. It is more than a year since the Australian-born opener made a hundred in the Championship. He was out for 93 against Yorkshire at Liverpool a couple of weeks ago and must have thought he was going to correct that when he hit 14 in one over against Ben Stokes. But Stokes gained revenge, perhaps with a touch of extra pace, when he knocked back Horton's off stump.

Ian Blackwell made inroads with his left-arm spin but Lancashire's deep middle-order kept the scoreboard moving, notably when Glen Chapple and Luke Procter put on 87 for the eighth wicket, with 17 overs of forceful but measured hitting. All seven Durham bowlers took wickets, although the limited use of leg-spinner Scott Borthwick, who was successful when the pace of his third delivery took Tom Smith by surprise, was a mystery.