Katich builds chance for victory push
Lancashire 356 for 5 (Katich 93*, Brown 87, Prince 58) lead Kent 244 by 112 runs
In a week where aging Australian batsmen have been in the headlines, Simon Katich gave Lancashire a chance to pressure Kent at Old Trafford, in the process passing 20,000 career runs, as the home side pushed hard in the final session to build a lead of 112.
For long periods of this match, the construction of the redeveloped Old Trafford pavilion has moved at a greater pace than the action in the middle. However, Lancashire have set their stall out this season to grind out large totals, regardless of how long it takes and ignoring bonus points, so to that end will be satisfied with their position.
Their advantage was down largely to Katich who, given his country's current travails, is still good enough to be in Australia's Test team. Unlike Chris Rogers, though, there will be no twilight Ashes tour for him after he ended his first-class career in Australia two years ago. When he reached 87, ironically so as it is considered an unlucky number for Australians, he notched 20,000 first-class runs and by the close was within touching distance of his first hundred for Lancashire.
"I guess it means I'm old, but also persistent," Katich said on his milestone. "My wife has been telling me for the last six months, so I knew I was close, but that wasn't the focus because I was a long way from it. It was a very proud moment but for me it has always been about trying to play in winning teams. Along the way I've been fortunate to do that and I guess that's a by-product of scoring runs. If we win this game it will make it even more special."
Katich provided the innings with the kick it desperately needed in very similar style to the opening match against Worcestershire two weeks ago, where he partnered Ashwell Prince in a 181-run stand that took just 32 overs. This time Prince feel shortly after his half-century, but Katich dominated the final session with increasingly aggressive strokeplay in a passage of play that - in company with the lively Steven Croft - resembled the YB40, which begins next week, and was a marked contrast to anything else seen in the game. Their stand was worth 138 in 35 overs, exploiting a tiring attack, but at times during the season the acceleration will need to come sooner.
"The way we've played in the first two games, being relentless with ball and bat, we will give ourselves the best chance to win," Katich said. "Particularly in four-day cricket it's so important because you can have one good day but if you don't back it up the game can drift away from you. But if you do it consistently you more often than not crack teams. Regardless of what happens in this match, I think we are playing a good style of cricket at the moment."
Karl Brown, under some pressure early this season after a lean 2012, had laid the foundations, continuing his stubborn occupation from the previous day, firstly with nightwatchman James Anderson and then the in-form Prince. Brown rarely changed gears during his innings - his fifty came from 158 balls - although he did skip down the pitch to loft James Tredwell for a straight six.
"Full marks to Karl, Jimmy and Ashwell, which certainly made our job a lot easier in that last session to wear them down then try and get the scoreboard ticking over quicker," Katich said.
Kent, however, offered a helping hand. Their fielding fell apart after lunch with three catches going down in quick succession. Brown enjoyed two of the lives, firstly on 48 when Mark Davies spilled a chance at mid-on - above his head but not difficult - then by Sam Northeast at a wide third slip on 61.
Prince, too, was given a life, on 18, when he edged the luckless Matt Coles to first slip where Darren Stevens spilled the catch. It was a cold day in Manchester, but that is not unusual for county cricket in April and with a limited attack Kent's fielders needed to offer their bowlers more support.
Kent's fourth drop of the day was the toughest opportunity, when Michael Powell couldn't hold a swirling catch at deep-square leg when Katich had 60. By now, with the 110-over cut-off for bonus points having passed and purely a match to save, Kent's field was becoming increasingly spread, allowing Katich and Croft to comfortably keep the scoreboard ticking.
To force a result on the final day will still require an inspired spell or two. It is likely to need a burst of pacey swing from Anderson or Simon Kerrigan to find some turn to mean that the diligence of Lancashire's batsmen does not just feature in a nondescript draw.
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo