Karl Brown narrowly missed out on a first LV= County Championship century since early 2011, but his composed 96 still ensured Lancashire’s cricketers reached the halfway stage of their clash with Leicestershire at Old Trafford in total control.
The 27-year-old right-hander hit 14 fours and a six in 231 balls from the top of the order as the Division Two leaders responded strongly to Leicestershire’s first-innings 207 all out with 314 for four from 96 overs at the close on day two.
Brown shared in half-century stands or better for Lancashire’s first three wickets before falling lbw to Ben Raine in the first hour of the evening, leaving the score at 248 for three in the 76th over.
He added 91 inside 32 overs with opening partner Paul Horton before lunch, 83 inside 25 with Alviro Petersen through the majority of the afternoon and 74 inside 20 either side of tea with Ashwell Prince.
Horton made 54 off 104 balls, Petersen 46 off 65 and Prince an unbeaten 74 off 110.
Brown navigated some tight bowling from the visitors during the morning session, with off-spinner Jigar Naik and new ball partners Atif Sheikh and Raine bowling five successive maidens between the end of the fourth over and the start of the 10th.
But Leicestershire failed to maintain the pressure and they only took one wicket in each of the first two sessions and two in the last.
There was another memorable moment for former Lancashire batsman Andrea Agathangelou on his first return to the club he left at the end of last season.
Agathangelou scored a first day 54 before taking a stunning one-handed second-slip catch, head high diving to his right, to help left-arm seamer Rob Taylor get rid of Horton in the final over before lunch.
Naik had Petersen lbw as he shuffled across his crease and played to leg deep into the afternoon session as Lancashire fell to 174 for two in the 57th over before Raine denied Brown his milestone after tea.
Brown was trapped lbw playing back to one which kept low.
Prince and captain Steven Croft then added 55 inside 12 overs for the fourth wicket, meaning this was the first time Lancashire’s first four wickets in an innings had each put on 50 or more since 2007.
Naik picked up his second wicket when he had Croft caught at mid-off with 303 on the board in the 87th over.
Brown said: “I think it’s a great day. We’ve done what we set out to do and put ourselves in a great position now.
“But there’s still two days to go, and we’ve got to play a lot of good cricket to win this game. I’m obviously disappointed to be out for 96, but I don’t think there is anything I could have done with the ball I got. I’m just glad I didn’t get it when I was on nought.
“I’m massively disappointed and gutted I didn’t score a hundred because every batsman sets their sights on scoring hundreds and I haven’t quite got there this time. But if I carry on playing the way I am, there is one just around the corner.”
Leicestershire spinner Naik said: “We were unfortunate to get bowled out for 207 (on day one). We started off well (today), but we were always chasing the game from then on. The sun was out, which helped them. I felt we stuck at our task well, although we would have liked one or two more wickets down. But we’ll come back strong in the morning.
“I got a long spell and beat the bat a bit, but that sort of thing happens in cricket. The turn will increase, so we need to bat well, get a lead and hopefully I can bowl on that second dig.”