Hogg haul helps Lancs roll on
Lancashire 380 (Reece 85, Procter 67, Katich 62, Horton 59, Freckingham 4-85) beat Leicestershire 154 (Smith 3-35) and 174 (O'Brien 50, Hogg 5-77) by an innings and 52 runs
Lancashire are targeting two more wins to clinch a return to Division One. The league leaders completed the formalities on an innings-and-52-run victory over bottom side Leicestershire during the first 70 minutes of day four to win for the sixth time this season and the fourth time in their last five matches. It would now take a collapse in form of sizeable proportions for them not to seal promotion.
Kyle Hogg was their standout performer with the ball as he claimed three of the five wickets to fall during the morning session after Leicestershire had started on 128 for 5 and scored 22 runs in the first three overs of play.
Hogg has had an exceptional season with the new ball, and clinched his second haul of five wickets or more, finishing with 5 for 77 from 22 overs. He has now taken 42 wickets, and is set to sail past his previous best of 50 wickets in the Championship-winning season of 2011.
"He's obviously bowled beautifully today, but he did that through the whole game," Lancashire coach Peter Moores said. "The first two or three overs he bowled in the game down the hill, he struggled slightly for his rhythm. But like a good pro, he got himself sorted and bowled fantastically. He's getting movement, and I said to him this morning 'you could swing an orange at the moment'.
"He puts a lot of balls in the right area, and he deserved his five-for. He's certainly back to the form of 2011. Hoggy's matured a lot as a bowler and how you handle yourself through disappointment. It's obviously great for him to have Glen Chapple at the other end.
"We've now got six wins. At the start of the season we targeted eight wins if we could, half your games. You never know what can happen because in England weather can always play a part. We were desperate to try and get wins last year, but we just kept coming across the weather and didn't get a chance.
"It's been lovely this season to play and play good cricket. We've still haven't been beaten yet. We're the only side in country to have that. There's intensity to how we're playing at the moment."
The obvious joke would be that if Hogg could swing an orange, then Leicestershire batted like lemons. To not post 200 in either innings in a decent batting conditions, that description is not far off the mark. They have now lost by an innings two matches in a row.
"There are not many positives, no," Matt Boyce, the captain, said. "Where we sit in the table is reflected in the way they went about their business and the way we went about ours. There was a marked difference. They were at us every ball, and over four days that can get to a side that's struggling for form.
"I think the bowlers did well - it's a flat wicket and 380 was about par in their first innings. It was an attritional wicket, one when you had to stop the other side scoring and chances would come. They had a few guys get fifties and get out, we had a few guys get thirties and get out."
Leicestershire batted with little care throughout the match, summed up this morning when Niall O'Brien, having reached his side's first fifty of the match, needlessly flashed at Hogg outside off stump and found Andrea Agathangelou at second slip. It was not the shot to be played when trying to save a match and with the threat of rain around at some stage in the day.
O'Brien was one of three wickets to fall inside seven and a half overs as the score slipped from 150 for 5 to 151 for 8. Chapple wrapped up the win for his side when he had James Sykes caught and bowled with his first ball of the morning.
"Cricket is a confidence game," Boyce said. "That's what it revolves around and we're sitting at the bottom of the table. We need to get some confidence in the guys in practice. We were never on top in this game. We've been on top in a lot of games this season, but we have to work harder to stay on top. When those moments come we need to really nail it. We can only go forward from here and that's what we're going to do. We're going to come in and work harder, work smarter, and think about cricket a bit more, and come out the other side a better team."
Not only does this win set Lancashire up perfectly for promotion even though there are still five matches left, it gives them the ideal tonic ahead of Wednesday's FLt20 quarter-final against defending champions Hampshire.
"It's a really big game, and one we're looking forward to," Moores said. "It's funny because I had a feeling we might get them, and I also had a feeling we were going to win. If that's right or not we'll see because it's a tough place to play and they're a good team. But we go there confident that if we execute our skills, it will be a very good contest."