Paul Horton’s unbeaten 150 helped Lancashire progress to 344-4 on the second day of the LV=CC game against Leicestershire at Old Trafford.
The stand-in captain was part of three big partnerships as Lancashire, who started the match needing 18 points to seal promotion, closed in on a fourth batting point.
Horton extended his opening partnership with Luis Reece (50, 126b) to 137 before sharing 73 and 107 with Simon Katich (56, 62b) and Andrea Agathangelou (46, 94b) for the third and fourth wicket respectively.
James Sykes bowled really well in taking 2-61 from 57 overs while Ben Raine (20-5-51-1) also gave excellent control as Leicestershire stuck to their task.
There was fog in the air when play was meant to begin, so the start was delayed for 45 minutes with four overs lost at that stage. Lancashire resumed on 92-0 and Nathan Buck and Raine started with a maiden apiece.
Horton on-drove for four to get Lancashire off and running for the day, and he went on to clip away for three to take the score into three figures. A single took the opener to a well-played 73-ball half-century that included eight boundaries, an all-run four and a five.
Horton then struck Buck (21-3-92-0) for three successive fours at the start of the 28th over before Reece picked up his first boundary of the day at the beginning of the next over – the first that Raine had conceded in his 10th over.
Runs continued to come as Horton hit a 12th four in the 30th over of the innings and Reece smashed the first maximum of the innings two overs later.
Reece, who already had registered scores of 114* and 85 against Leicestershire this season for Leeds/Bradford MCCU and Lancashire respectively, then moved to a seventh consecutive first-class half-century. It has certainly been a fine season for the 23-year-old.
But his latest knock came to an end as leading wicket-taker Freckingham (19-1-100-1) found the edge and Greg Smith took a sharp chance in the cordon. That brought Ashwell Prince (14, 40b) to the crease and there was no respite as he drove two of his first three balls to the fence.
Before Freckingham struck, Sykes had been introduced for his first bowl in place of Raine, who now had figures of 12-5-15-0. Sykes ensured the Pavilion End remained tied up by conceding just a single in his opening three overs. Lancashire went in on 146-1 from 40 overs with Horton on 68 and Prince 8.
Sykes and Raine were then selected to bowl in tandem after the break, with Raine now operating from the Brian Statham End. There was only one four in the first 9.3 overs as Horton struck to the fence in the 46th over, and that pressure led to a wicket as Prince was caught at first slip by Michael Thornely off Raine.
Leicestershire were looking to build on the breakthrough but Lancashire have a strong line-up and Katich immediately looked in good touch. The Australian hit two of his first three balls for four, Lancashire moving to 171-2 after 50 overs.
Horton drove Sykes to the fence as he moved into the eighties while Katich continued his pacy start by hitting four boundaries in the space of three overs, including a wonderful off-drive. By the end of the 54th over, Katich was 28 not out off just 18 deliveries.
Lancashire registered their first batting point in the 55th over while Katich struck to the fence in each of the 58th and 59th overs. There was no four in the next eight overs but Katich hit two boundaries off Buck in the 68th over, the first of which raced to the cover boundary to take him to a fine 54-ball half-century (9x4).
However, Sykes had stuck to his task well and after bowling his first 17 overs for just 34 runs, he picked up some tangible reward as Smith took a brilliant one-handed catch diving to his left at slip to dismiss Katich. That gave Leicestershire their first bowling point.
Another stand developed, with Horton continuing to be a rock for the home side. The batsman struck Raine for four before a single from the next ball took him to a second consecutive LV=CC century, this one coming from 193 balls with fifteen boundaries, an all-run four and a five.
Horton picked up a further trio of fours, with the first of those helping Lancashire to 250. The home side went to tea on 265-3 and the duo continued to accumulate after the break.
Sykes and Tom Wells (8-1-22-0) bowled after the interval and Agathangelou batted steadily, picking off three boundaries amid careful defence. Leicestershire took the new ball after 87 overs but Horton’s 19th four took Lancashire to a third batting point.
Agathangelou hit three fours in the space of five overs before Horton struck two boundaries in the 95th over, including a well-timed pull, to move to a superb 150 from 260 balls. The batsman hit six more fours in moving from 100 to the milestone. Agathangelou also twice drove to the fence in the 96th over, the first of which took the stand past 100.
The batsman was now within four of fifty but his innings was ended as Sykes had him caught at the wicket by Niall O’Brien. Luke Procter (1*, 5b) picked up a single before the floodlights took over from natural light, so the players left the field due to bad light.
There were 16 overs scheduled to be bowled but the players were not to return to the field, so a total of 20 overs were lost on the second day. The sides will have 13 overs to pick up further bonus points from this innings when play resumes tomorrow.