Horton's century steers Lancs to face-saving draw
Warwickshire 557-6 Lancashire 197 & 343-5 (Match drawn)
Could this be the turning point in Lancashire's season? Beaten three times in the first five matches of their title defence, the 2011 county champions escaped with a draw that scarcely seemed possible when they were forced to follow on, 360 behind, midway through the third day.
It still appeared unlikely on the final morning, given that they had lost eight wickets in the course of Friday and somehow needed to preserve their remaining seven on a pitch, you supposed, that would be at its least benign.
Escape they did, however, and their coach, Peter Moores, will wring out of it every ounce of positivity between now and Lancashire's next Championship match, against Middlesex at Liverpool on Wednesday. That promises at last to be played in weather something like that which they enjoyed when they were getting off to a flyer at the start of last season.
At the heart of their survival was Paul Horton, who answered Lancashire's call with a fine century, maintaining a vigil that stretched to more than seven and a half hours, at the end of which he was 137 not out.
Given Warwickshire's dominance until the final day, it was particularly merit worthy, not least because Horton had gone more than two years since his last Championship century and had been out four times in the 90s last season, which only added to the pressure on him.
Warwickshire lead the First Division, yet will kick themselves that they missed a chance to complete a double over the side who pipped them to the title last year, given that they had them 54 for five on Thursday evening and on the brink of defeat yesterday morning. Lancashire were helped by the weather, delaying the resumption until 11.45, and reached lunch with only one more wicket lost after Steven Croft was caught at second slip in the seventh of the 84 overs left.
But Horton, carrying extra responsibility after Stephen Moore, Karl Brown and Ashwell Prince were out on Friday, had stuck to his task, adding only nine runs to his 56 overnight but more importantly preserving his wicket. He did not do it alone after lunch, finding support from Luke Procter, who made 27 and Gareth Cross, who was as steadfast as Horton in finishing unbeaten on 75.
They played Jeetan Patel's off-spin well and survived a hostile spell from Rikki Clarke, who was convinced he had Horton caught behind off the glove on 78, only for umpire Martin Bodenham to remain unmoved. Patel found some turn, but a pitch that had offered the batsmen a pleasant change from the bowler-friendly surfaces that have been prevalent held together well.
"It was a good effort to force a team to follow on on a good pitch," said Warwickshire's director of cricket, Ashley Giles. "But Lancashire are a good side even though they have had a difficult start to the season. It was a fine innings from Paul Horton and we couldn't have done much different.
"We are not getting ahead of ourselves in terms of thinking about the title but if we are still in contention come the run-in we will feel we have a good chance. It feels like a win in a way because we showed the fight we know we are capable of and because it denied Warwickshire a win, which means its is a significant result."
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