Horton recovers to seal Lancashire draw
Lancashire 266 (Horton 140, Thomas 3-34, Dockrell 3-48, Gregory 3-65)) and 251 for 5 (Khawaja 60, Croft 59*) drew with Somerset 484 (Trescothick 128, C Overton 99, Petersen 73, Kerrigan 4-168)
This stalemate neither ruins Somerset's title chances nor puts a serious dampener on Lancashire's hopes of achieving a great escape from relegation. But after three days of cut and thrust cricket that were fascinating to watch if, perhaps, not always thrilling to take part in, the final chapter rather dribbled to its conclusion.
There were several top quality performances. For the visitors, opener Paul Horton made a terrific century at the start of the game and then, having been forced to retire hurt on the third evening following a blow to the head and still nursing a sore head today, batted splendidly again in the middle order to help seal the draw alongside the in-form Steven Croft.
And for the hosts, Marcus Trescothick set the standard with his third hundred of the season, Craig Overton was just one run away from reaching three figures for the first time and Alfonso Thomas bowled with great skill, and enormous heart, in both innings. But if there was a weak link on view then that had to be the pitch.
This dry and previously used surface turned all the way through, which shouldn't worry anyone because it was not excessive. But it lacked pace and carry from the start and deadened to such an extent that Lancashire batted out the final few hours with plenty of skill and application but without the scares and alarms usually associated with a rearguard action.
The bottom line, table-wise, is that Somerset slip a place to fourth. But they are level on points with Warwickshire and only 23 points behind leaders Notts, having played one fewer game. At the other end, Lancashire are out of the relegation places, albeit only just with Sussex seven points behind and having a match in hand.
A win, though, would have been like gold dust for both these teams. "We are disappointed because I thought there was a very good chance we could knock them over today," said Trescothick. "But the wicket was a bit too slow (for spinner George Dockrell) and the seamers couldn't get any energy out of it.
"The pitch was slower than what we would normally want and what you normally expect here. The pitches we've produced for the last couple of championship games have been ideal with seamers and spinners getting wickets and people batting on them as well. We haven't quite got this one right.
"But we put ourselves into a position where we thought we could win and I thought we played the game absolutely brilliantly and very consistently."
Trescothick admitted that, with hindsight, a second spinner would have been handy. It is doubtful, though, whether even that option would have done for Lancashire - given that Dockrell had only two wickets to show for 40 overs of hard slog.
The young Irishman removed international batsmen Usman Khawaja and Ashwell Prince either side of lunch, having had both men missed earlier in the day off a difficult stumping opportunity and an even harder outfield chance spilled by Overton. But it was Thomas, who had match figures of 44-14-69-6, who came closest to barging though Lancashire's resolve.
In consecutive overs, Thomas had Jos Buttler edging a loose drive against his old county and Tom Smith snicking one that left him - both catches being taken by Craig Kieswetter on the day the wicketkeeper signed a new three year contract. Lancashire were then 159 for five, still 59 runs behind and with 50 overs remaining.
But then back into the fray walked Horton, and apart from one almost impossible 'chance' drilled at Trescothick neither he nor the excellent Croft (who has now made 410 runs in his last four completed innings) looked like buckling during an unbroken alliance that spanned 37 overs. Horton was still feeling slightly groggy this morning, which is why he did not re-appear until the visitors were five down, but he looked happy enough in the middle.
The draw was agreed an hour early, leaving Lancashire captain Glen Chapple ultimately relieved but still wondering what might have been. "We are playing some good cricket and have fought hard for a draw but earlier in the game we would have fancied our chances of winning," he said.
"Now we have five games left and we are still in touch but we have to start winning again."
David Lloyd is a former chief cricket correspondent of PA and the Evening Standard