Somerset v Lancashire, Taunton, 1st day June 29, 2014

Lancashire lean on Horton hundred


Lancashire 221 for 6 (Horton 140) v Somerset

It wasn't chanceless and, for the most part, it owed more to hard graft than carefree strokeplay. But Paul Horton's first century of the Championship season could hardly have been better timed, or of greater value, for a Lancashire side fighting for their Division One lives.

Given that overhead conditions allied to a dry and previously used pitch offered swing and seam bowlers something all day - as well as yielding encouraging bounce, plus a bit of turn, when George Dockrell got to work - judgement on who holds the balance of power might best be left until after both sides have batted once.

What can be stated with a fair degree of confidence, though, is that Lancashire would have been in a real pickle by now but for Horton. And it is also reasonable to say that the opener needed these runs every bit as much as his county, having totalled just 90 from his previous eight Championship innings.

When Horton finally fell to the second new ball, he had scored 140 of his side's 219 for 6 (which is near as two thirds of the runs) and been responsible for 21 of their 24 fours. True, Jos Buttler drove a couple of sixes on his return to Somerset but, like all batsmen bar one, he fell the wrong side of 20.

Horton so nearly made it through to stumps unbeaten and was clearly pained to fall lbw with four overs remaining. By then he had batted for six-and-a-quarter hours and was enjoying his most productive spell at the crease, having scored 40 runs from 47 balls after raising his bat for the hundred. Still, it added up to a day's work to cherish.

"I was averaging under 30 this year and it's things like that which drive me on," the 31-year-old said. "I haven't done my job well enough for the first 10 games - I get paid to score runs for Lancashire. So it's a special moment when you make a hundred."

Glen Chapple's decision to bat first was reasonable enough, even though the surface had more than a tinge of green about it when play began 65 minutes late following a morning shower. Batting in the fourth innings could be a real trial, not that it was a walk in the park first up - as a run rate that stayed below two-and-a-half an over for most of the day would suggest.

Having suffered their first defeat of the season when losing to Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge last week, Somerset were buoyed by the return to fitness of both Alfonso Thomas (back) and Lewis Gregory (hamstring) - recoveries that meant new recruit Tim Groenewald was kept waiting for his debut. And but for Horton, they would have had the visitors on the rack by mid-afternoon.

The new ball beat the bat on a fairly regular basis, a couple of edges landed close enough to fielders to spark "did it carry?" debates and it soon became apparent that Lancashire were more likely to take centre stage at nearby Glastonbury tonight than soar to the heights of last week's 650 for 6 declared against Northants.

The first snick that really mattered, though, came when the visitors were already three down and Horton earned four runs for a false shot against Gregory that appeared to brush the fingertips of James Hildreth at first slip as he dived left.

Having just secured a battling half-century, Horton deserved a bit of good fortune. And another slice came his way, on 81, with Hildreth this time getting two hands to a boot-high opportunity off Peter Trego's bowling. But it would be wrong, very wrong, to suggest the opener rode his luck. He defended resolutely time and again, when resolute defence was required, and put away the bad or inviting ball with great certainty. Not that there was too much bad stuff, particularly from Thomas and Gregory who posed difficult questions all day long.

After one day, this is still anyone's match. But already it is a match Horton should remember with great fondness, at least from a personal point of view.

David Lloyd is a former chief cricket correspondent of PA and the Evening Standard

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • ESPN on June 30, 2014, 19:28 GMT

    I didn't realise Somerset people were so stuck up and bitter. Lancs are just finding their feet again. Don't right us off just yet. Look at the table. There aren't that many points dividing six teams.

  • John on June 30, 2014, 14:23 GMT

    @Henrik Lovén on (June 30, 2014, 12:05 GMT) I think it says more about Lancs bad than Somerset good. By depth , I mean squad depth. If we lose a bowler or 2 we seem to have decent back ups. If we lose another batsman we're into Barrow (who has not done well for the 1st team) and other untried players. Jones is ok and maybe will come on given a run in the side. Not sure what Compton's average is this season but to me he seems to have had a mediocre season so far. Tres has been better in the CC but I think I prefer the batting line up of Yorks or Notts right now

  • Dummy4 on June 30, 2014, 12:05 GMT

    JG2704, you are of course correct in that it was the introvert Roebuck, not Rose, who was captain when Richards and Garner were sacked. But you do Somerset a great disservice when you say that in terms of depth, you batting is much weaker when Trego, Kieswetter and C Overton average more than most of Lancashire's recognised batsmen did before this game. Also, with Trescothick, Compton and Alviro Petersen in your top four, Somerset's batting strength, top and bottom, is to be envied. And not by Lancashire only.

  • Martin on June 30, 2014, 9:52 GMT

    If only Kieswetter had gone for that catch off Horton early on that went between the keeper and 1st slip (and fell short of 1st slip) Somerset would be in complete control. Ironic that Kieswetter often dives in front of 1st slip and spills chances but doesn't even go for one that he should have done.

    Fantastic to see son of Somerset Jos Buttler back where he belongs in Taunton. And what an amazing reception he got. How many players get a standing ovation when they walk out to bat?! Just shows the love and affection in which he is held by his fellow Somerset people. And what a tragedy it is that we, as good as, forced out of Somerset one of the most exciting young talents in world cricket. I long to see you wearing the shirt of your beloved Somerset again Jos.

  • John on June 30, 2014, 9:23 GMT

    Back to the game. It's a shame for us we had Horton digging in as Lancs may have been all out by now if not.Obviously we need early wickets today and then score well and quickly to get ahead of the game.

  • John on June 30, 2014, 9:18 GMT

    Re Somerset's past decision making. I remember Viv and Joel going. I'm not 100% sure the exact reasons behind it but I'm pretty sure that at the time the rules changed whereby a county was only able to play one overseas player (from 2 in previous seasons). Therefore I wonder if there was a financial aspect to the decision. I doubt either Joel or Viv would have wanted half the money for playing half the games and maybe Somerset felt they couldn't afford to keep both on full pay? Maybe releasing both players was the only way they could do it - releasing one without the other may have been an even harder decision. I believe they brought in Crowe who also did well for Somerset.

  • John on June 30, 2014, 9:07 GMT

    @Henrik Lovén -Just a few points to pick you up on

    1 -Ther bowling has been pretty good this year. Everyone has chipped in and we have a healthy comp for places. I also think in terms of depth that our batting is much weaker. We have a few of players out and it shows

    2 - I believe it was Roebuck Rose who was captain when the legends went.

    Re Somerset's decision making they were backed into an almost impossible situation re Buttler.Jos was not the 1st team WK and Craig was and then you don't know what further demands would have been made by Fairbrother - sorry I mean Jos - down the line. Had they stuck with Jos Craig would have gone and we'd have lost a consistent 1st team regular. If Jos plays test cricket he'll play virtually no county cricket for Lancs. We have lost a gem for sure and miss him esp in SF cricket where we have no one of his class in the middle order and we'd rather have him here for a few games then not at all but then we lose Craig for good if he loses the gloves

  • mark on June 30, 2014, 8:50 GMT

    Very bitter stuff from Somerset people about Buttler. I shouldn't worry about him; he's having the opportunities to learn to be a proper keeper- and a long innings batter- that he didn't get at Somerset as they presumably think Kieswetter is a better player- or more likely, cynically concluded that Kieswetter isn't going to be wanted by England so they might get more work from him. Given that a number of loca,l members were keen to tell me how glad they were that they'd kept Kieswetter, it's amusing to hear all the grumbles given that this would seem to be the best solution best for both clubs as well as the player.

  • Dummy4 on June 30, 2014, 8:29 GMT

    This is one of the most interesting games of this season as it's the most polarised. Somerset's batting line-up is one of the two best as is the Lancashire attack whereas Lancashire's batting line-up and Somerset's attack are two of the weakest. Somerset followers would do well not to crow over Buttler's lack of runs but hope that Chapple, Hogg, Smith and Kerrigan make as little impact with ball as Buttler did with bat. Should they follow Horton's example however...

    Cottard, Somerset is a funny old county the decisions of which rarely seem to be made on cricketing grounds as when they famously stood behind Rose against Botham, Richards and Garner - or when they relegated Buttler to second team cricket in favour of Kieswetter. Only themselves to blame!

  • Paul on June 30, 2014, 7:45 GMT

    Relegation to Division 2 is the proven route into the England set-up, Cottard. Easy runs and easy wickets in the basement is the only way to grab the headlines and attract the selectors.

    Cling on in Division One, fighting to prove yourself against your fellow international-class cricketers, and you won't be deemed good enough.

    By the way, Usman Khawaja looked like a man who has lost his way yesterday. Indecisive on the crease, never forward nor back, and finally falling to a top edge from what looked like a weak pull from outside off stump.

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