Lancashire battle for a draw

Croft - vital half-century
Croft - vital half-century
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A fighting half-century from Steven Croft and a brave, unbeaten 41 from Paul Horton guided Lancashire to a draw on the final day of the LV=County Championship match with Somerset at Taunton.

The visitors were 251 for five in their second innings in the Division One match, leading by 33 runs, when the players shook hands at 5pm, with Croft 59 not out.

Horton, who came in at number seven, having been forced to retire hurt on one after a blow on the head from an Alfonso Thomas bouncer when opening the innings the previous evening, faced 117 balls to help his partner save the game.

Thomas claimed three for 35 from 21 overs with his seamers, while left-arm spinner George Dockrell returned two for 70 from 40 overs.There were three catches and a stumping for Craig Kieswetter on the day he put pen to paper on a new three-year Somerset contract.

But the only winner in the end was a slow, dry pitch as Somerset collected 11 points and Lancashire nine.

The visitors began the final day on 59 without loss, needing a further 159 to avoid an innings defeat. They had added only seven when Thomas found the edge of Alex Davies’ bat and Kieswetter took a comfortable catch to dismiss the opener for 41.

At 90 for one Kieswetter blotted his copybook by failing to stump Ashwell Prince on five as he advanced down the pitch to Dockrell.

Usman Khawaja reached a half-century off 132 balls, with eight fours. On 56 he narrowly escaped being caught by Craig Overton running towards the long-on boundary, the ball going for four.

Three balls later, however, Khawaja pushed forward to Dockrell and was snapped up off bat and pad by Chris Jones at short leg for 60. At lunch Lancashire were 141 for two.

Prince failed to learn from his earlier error, leaving his crease again to Dockrell, on 22, with only one run added in the afternoon session. This time Kieswetter made no mistake.

Jos Buttler’s return to Taunton was not a memorable one. He followed his first innings 18 with only four before edging a drive off Thomas through to the diving Kieswetter.

And it was 159 for five when Thomas induced another nick from a defensive push by Tom Smith, giving the Somerset keeper a more straightforward catch.

That brought in Horton at 159 for five, with his side still needing 59 to make their hosts bat again and a minimum of 50.2 overs still to be bowled.

Thomas tested him out with some short balls to no avail and the score had advanced to 207 for five when the new ball was taken two overs before tea.

The interval was reached with Lancashire 212 for five, just six behind. Croft was set and went on to his fourth 50 in six Championship innings off 119 balls, with eight fours.

After the game Somerset skipper Marcus Trescothick said “We are disappointed because we felt the chance was there to win the game. As it turned out the pitch was too slow for the seamers to make much of a contribution and we had to rely heavily on George Dockrell.

“It hasn’t worked out for us, but I felt we played consistently well with bat and ball throughout the match.”

Lancashire captain Glen Chapple paid tribute to Horton, saying: “Paul was pretty groggy last night and perhaps a bit worse than we expected him to be this morning. That’s why the decision was taken to bat him at seven.

“We could have done with more first innings runs, but we are playing good cricket and have some teams above us in the table in our sights.”