Paul Horton's home comforts enable Leicestershire to escape with a draw

Liverpool-raised batsman thwarts top-topping Lancashire on final day at Aigburth

Paul Edwards
Paul Edwards
Paul Horton works into the leg side  •  Getty Images

Paul Horton works into the leg side  •  Getty Images

Lancashire 449 (Livingstone 114, Bohannon 98*, Bailey 57, Croft 51; Klein 3-89) drew with Leicestershire 288 (Klein 87, Cosgrove 70, Gleeson 4-58) and 151 for 5
As far as playing for Lancashire is concerned Liverpudlians have had to walk alone. Only ten cricketers either born or raised in the city have made over 20 first-class appearances for the county since 1900. It is a figure which compares most unfavourably with the heartlands of Lancastrian cricket such as Westhoughton or Accrington. One of that dectet, though, is Paul Horton, so perhaps it was fitting that his 49 runs played a leading role in deciding the outcome of this game.
Less fitting, of course, was that he did so wearing Leicestershire's colours but Horton is a professional to his fingertips and after being released by Lancashire in 2015, he has given his very best for a county which clearly prizes his services.
And yet, as this game drifted towards a draw it was impossible to forget that Horton learned his cricket down the road at St Margaret's High School; or that he first played recreational cricket at the tearfully beautiful Sefton Park club, which is only two miles from Aigburth; or that in Lancashire's treasured title-winning summer of 2011 Horton joined his team mates in sprinting from the grand old green-and-white pavilion to acclaim famous victories against Yorkshire and Hampshire. He may be Sydney-born and his accent remains stubbornly antipodean but Merseyside has long been Horton's Heimat.
None of which counted for much this afternoon as Horton defied Lancashire and his former colleagues offered their inimitably frank commentary on his technique. Leicestershire's captain expected nothing less, of course; he has been round most of cricket's blocks and understands the informal rules of his chosen trade. He will probably have taken the comments as a compliment that he was doing his job in preventing Lancashire taking the wickets they needed to secure their fourth win in five games.
But if Horton's 189-minute vigil was the centrepiece of this gentle and glorious day, Leicestershire's draw was testament to their collective effort in resisting Lancashire's attack for 94 overs on a day when the Aigburth pitch offered oodles of turn and variable bounce.
Only 146 runs had been scored and Leicestershire had not even cleared their deficit by the time Neil Bainton flicked off the bails just after six o'clock. But that didn't matter a damn. What counted was that having been 150 for 7 in the middle of the third afternoon Leicestershire had lost only eight more wickets in the next 138.4 overs. Head coach Paul Nixon is building a team in his own image and they will nobody's patsies over the next four months.
Of course the cricket was slow. The ice-cream man gave up the struggle for custom at 2.40 and his van pulled out of the ground in search of a younger clientele. It returned over an hour later in the vain hope there had been a sudden influx of sweet teeth. There had not. The scene moved so gently it could have been painted: Man with a Double-Pram at Aigburth by Renoir.
There were some exotic statistics. Liam Livingstone's second-innings figures were 36-17-40-1, his one victim being Horton, who chopped a quicker ball onto his stumps. Livingstone's match analysis was 63-26-85-3; his labour as his side's main spinner was prodigious and it was properly praised by Nixon after the game. Livingstone wheeled away for most of this last day from the Pavilion End; partly as a consequence Lancashire's over-rate was 18 in excess of the minimum requirement, which may well be some sort of record.
Four wickets fell in the day. The first was that of nightwatchman Callum Parkinson, who had batted 216 minutes in the match when he edged Richard Gleeson to Livingstone at slip in the early afternoon. The final two, those of Hassan Azad and Neil Dexter, were taken by Steven Croft and Graham Onions in a last hour when Lancastrian hopes were suddenly raised. But Azad had batted for 177 minutes and Dexter for 88. They had done their bit.
Before that last act of a great drama Lancashire's cricketers had still appealed whenever they could, although they did so more to maintain their interest in proceedings than in much hope their requests for leg-before or caught-behind might be granted. Gleeson clapped a long succession of balls from Livingstone, who mixed off-spinners with the odd leggie. Fielders, as fielders will, encouraged their bowlers to go "Bang-bang". But Lancashire rarely went "Bang" on this last day. Instead they took 13 points for the draw and now lead Division Two by 11 points. They have been easily the best team in the second tier during the early part of the season.
At the end of a tough contest Leicestershire's cricketers sought to get away from Liverpool without great delay. Among them was the 20-year-old debutant, Harry Swindells, who had batted well on Wednesday and may think this game more or less the best thing in the world. And also among them was Paul Horton. He is 36 and he may have played his last county game at Liverpool.

Paul Edwards is a freelance cricket writer. He has written for the Times, ESPNcricinfo, Wisden, Southport Visiter and other publications

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