Horton and Reece pass age-old test
Lancashire 247 and 46 for 0 trail Warwickshire 324 by 31 runs
The challenge for the Lancashire openers Paul Horton and Luis Reece on a rain-affected day was to survive the remaining 22 overs, knowing that their side's chances of victory against Warwickshire were tissue-slim but the prospect of defeat would be increased if either or both were dismissed. So much, so obvious, perhaps, yet the task presented to Horton and Reece still represented an interesting psychological challenge of the type negotiated by first-wicket pairs down the ages.
That the pair managed to get through to the close without mishap offered evidence of their techniques and temperaments. Reece's effort was particularly meritorious given that the 23-year-old is playing in only his 12th County Championship match. Announcing his talent last season by making seven consecutive fifties for Lancashire in Division Two was one thing; battling away for a mere 9 not out off 62 balls, bowled by Warwickshire's high-quality attack in the intermittent evening sunshine at Old Trafford was quite another. In its way this was a significant effort by the young batsman.
Horton survived, too, although he is an experienced opener, well-used to such testing situations. It was Horton who flirted most obviously with danger in the cool of the evening, cutting wildly at one ball from Wright and then playing and missing in similar fashion to Jeetan Patel, whose spinners foreshadowed examinations to come on the last day of this game.
Rain had prevented play until 4.45pm and Lancashire's James Anderson then took his first wicket of the match when he bowled Oliver Hannon-Dalby to end Warwickshire's first innings on 324, which represented a useful lead of 77. By the close, Lancashire's opening pair had reduced the deficit to 31 and they had survived to bat another morning. They had struck three boundaries in 22 overs, not that such things mattered a brass farthing when set beside their overarching task.
"It's always tricky if you've only got 20-odd overs to bat," a satisfied Horton said at the day's conclusion. "Their bowlers had rested all day and they had a good crack at it with the new ball under lights, which makes it swing a little bit more, but there was nothing untoward.
"Luis has never played a Championship game in April, so everything's a challenge to him at the moment. It's all a learning curve for him at the moment but he's adapting and doing really well. We talked each other though it this evening and maybe as the senior partner I talked a little more to Luis. We helped each other and we did well to get through in that last session."