Rain and stubborn batting see Lancashire CCC denied by Leicestershire

Lancashire bowler Richard Gleeson
Lancashire bowler Richard Gleeson
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Lancashire returned to the top of Specsavers County Championship Division Two despite being denied a fourth win of the season by a battling Leicestershire side.

A combination of rain and resolute batting from Paul Horton and Hassam Azad frustrated the Red Rose throughout the final day at Aigburth, resulting in a draw which leaves Lancashire, who are now 11 points clear of Glamorgan, claiming 13 points and Leicestershire nine.

Resuming on 5-1 after following on and trailing Lancashire’s first innings score of 449 by 156 runs, the Foxes slowly dug in for the long day ahead with Horton and Callum Parkinson happy to prod and block their way through opening spells from Graham Onions, Richard Gleeson and Tom Bailey.

Only 40 minutes of play were possible before the first of the morning’s showers, by which time Leicestershire had reached 21-1.

Play resumed at around 12.25pm, but just 16 more balls were possible before the rain returned and the players departed for an early lunch at 12.45pm with the score 26-1.

The wet morning ensured 14 overs had been lost by the time the players reappeared.

Horton, a former Lancashire opener and adopted Liverpudlian who plays for nearby Sefton Park, returned to haunt the Red Rose with a painstaking innings of 49 off 151 balls, before he was deceived by a quicker delivery from Liam Livingstone and chopped onto his stumps.

The other batsman to depart was Parkinson, who had done his job admirably in making 15 runs from 58 balls, when he edged to Livingstone at second slip off Gleeson with the score 30-2.

Lending valuable support to Horton throughout the session was Azad, who showed creditable patience as he helped his more experienced teammate in eking out a stand of 57 runs for the third wicket.

At tea, Azad remained unbeaten on 24 off 100 balls, with Neil Dexter joining him as Leicestershire went into the interval 93-3 and trailing by 68 runs.

A draw seemed inevitable, and with Livingstone and Steven Croft twirling away at each end, very little happened until Azad edged Croft behind to Dane Vilas on the stroke of 5pm for 39 from 156 deliveries.

As the final hour began, the visitors still needed 24 runs to make their opponents bat again and there was further drama when Dexter was trapped in front by Onions for 27, 21 runs short of the target.

From then on, attrition was the order of the day with fielders crowded around Mark Cosgrove and Colin Ackermann and multiple appeals every time the ball passed the bat or cannoned into the pad.

When Livingstone, who bowled 36 overs for his 1-40, had Ackermann dropped at bat pad by Keaton Jennings, with the deficit still 12 runs, the game was probably up.

Twenty minutes later, the umpires finally called time at 6pm with Leicestershire closing on 151-5.