Horton carries heavy burden
Lancashire 197 (Prince 87*, Woakes 3-20) and 122 for 3 (Horton 56*) trail Warwickshire 557 for 6 dec by 238 runs
Lancashire managed to interpret the absence of outstanding individuals in their ranks as a virtue while they were winning the County Championship last season but in circumstances such as these it looks uncomfortably like a shortcoming.
Winning cricket matches, as Lancashire proved, depends on individuals combining effectively as a team, especially the bowlers, but with 238 runs still needed to avoid an innings defeat against Warwickshire today, the statistics of Lancashire's batting form are not encouraging.
In 2011, for example, even winning the title, they managed only eight first-class hundreds, compared with 16 for both Warwickshire and Somerset, and 22 for Durham. Yet if there is one thing they need to have any hope of saving this match it is a proven accumulator of runs.
What's more, their best hope of any player stepping up to fulfill that role seems already to have gone. Ashwell Prince, whose unbeaten 87 in Lancashire's first innings denied Warwickshire the opportunity to wrap things up inside three days, perished after facing only four deliveries in the follow-on.
The South African was caught at slip going after a ball from Jeetan Patel with a stroke that contrasted so starkly with the patience of his near four-hour vigil earlier in the day it seemed almost as if it were another batsman. Coming moments after Karl Brown had gone for 45, ending a stand of 87 for the second wicket that appeared to have set up Lancashire nicely for a last-day rearguard, it was a bitter blow for Glen Chapple's side and an enormous fillip for Warwickshire.
Paul Horton, with whom Brown shared that second-wicket partnership, played soundly for two and a half hours to be unbeaten on 56, but will now need to do so for a good deal longer and hope for more of the gloomy conditions that came to their aid in bringing the third day to a premature close.
As it was, Lancashire limped to 122 for 3 and Warwickshire remain well on course for the innings victory that will put them 15 points clear at the top of Division One with a game in hand on both Nottinghamshire and Somerset.
Eight wickets in the day rewarded more impressive work from the Warwickshire bowlers on what has essentially been a good batting surface. Given that Lancashire had been 54 for 5 on Thursday, 197 all out in their first innings represented something of a recovery. Yet the total of 408 they needed merely to avoid the follow-on was never remotely likely.
They lost only two more wickets in the morning session, their resistance almost entirely due to the efforts of Prince, who has four half-centuries in 10 Championship innings since he rejoined Lancashire. Only he, with the benefit of considerable experience, of course, produced the necessary resolve that was required to make Warwickshire work for their wickets.
There was some, naturally, from Glen Chapple, batting despite the discomfort of the side strain that prevented his bowling for much of the Warwickshire innings. He survived 44 balls but even he was guilty of an injudicious choice of shot, caught behind trying to hook Chris Wright, falling for 14.
Gareth Cross, shaping to pull Chris Woakes but failing to commit fully to the stroke, and Ajmal Shahzad, taking the aerial route against Jeetan Patel's offspin, had both been wasteful earlier, although Jim Troughton, running backwards, did his best to let Shahzad off the hook, juggling the ball twice before grabbing it at the third attempt at long-on.
Woakes, making an impressive comeback from the ankle injury that caused him to miss the early part of the season, finished with 3 for 20 and both he and Wright continued to produce moments of menace. Patel could not conjure much in the way of turn but he finished on a hat-trick when he dismissed Simon Kerrigan and Gary Keedy with successive balls, denying Lancashire even the consolation of a batting point.
Woakes took his fourth wicket of the match when Stephen Moore edged a fine away-swinger to first slip in only the fifth over of the follow-on and for a moment Warwickshire had visions of a rapid conclusion.
Horton and Brown had other ideas but just as some of the more pessimistic Warwickshire supporters were beginning to wonder if the declaration had been delayed too long on Thursday, two wickets in quick succession tipped the balance heavily back in their favour.
First Brown, always looking to play shots, edged Wright into the gloves of wicketkeeper Tim Ambrose and then came Prince's aberration. Horton, who has not made a Championship century since April 2010, has much weight on his shoulders.