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    Monday 26 January 2015

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Thornely and O'Brien lead recovery

Leicestershire again had a tough time against leaders Lancashire, who are now nine points away from promotion after another rain-hit day of the LV=CC match at Old Trafford.

The Red Rose county started the game needing 18 points to be mathematically certain of clinching a return to Division One.

That target has since been reduced to 15 given Essex picked up just two batting points at Canterbury - and they have taken six points from this encounter so far.

Lancashire, who resumed on 344-4, picked up maximum batting points before declaring on 453-7. Stand-in captain Paul Horton was ended on 156 (268b, 21x4) while Ned Eckersley (5-0-29-2) picked up his first wickets in the first-class game.

Leicestershire were in some trouble on 14-3 when Lancashire dismissed the in-form Eckersley but Michael Thornely and Niall O’Brien led a recovery to 60-3.

The duo were on nought when their alliance started and that symmetry continued as they each made an unbeaten 23 in an unbroken stand of 46 before rain came.

The precipitation wiped out the remaining 54 overs, and that means over half the game has been lost so far (149 overs in total).

Lancashire resumed needing a further 56 in 13 overs to record maximum batting points and they achieved that feat. The hosts registered their fourth batting point in the second over of the day.

Luke Procter (44, 53b) was put down by Thornely at slip off Nathan Buck and also survived a sharp caught and bowled chance off James Sykes early on the third morning. But he also collected two fours, one of those being a well-timed clip off the slow left armer.

County continued to create opportunities and Buck (25-4-115-1) moved the side a step closer to a second bowling point in ended Horton’s vigil. The seamer got some movement to hit the captain’s off stump, Lancashire now 363-5 in the 102nd over.

The home side collected their final batting point with a flurry of fours. Tom Smith (23, 17b) opened his boundary account with a reverse sweep before picking up another two fours, and Procter also hit to the fence. Eckersley then entered the attack and Smith hit to the ropes to take the score past 400.

Lancashire opted to bat on, and there was a proud moment for Eckersley later in his first over as he picked up a maiden first-class wicket. Smith attempted to reverse sweep the occasional off-spin and namesake Greg snapped up the chance at first slip.

Lancashire had their foot firmly on the accelerator and Procter struck Sykes (32-5-98-2) for four through mid-wicket while Championship debutant Alex Davies (31*, 30b) hit Eckersley for a couple of leg-side boundaries in the 108th over.

Thirteen runs came in the next over from Sykes; Procter powerfully drove consecutive deliveries to the boards before picking up a single, while Davies struck the last ball away for four.

Eckersley was certainly making the most of his opportunity. Procter ran past one from the off-spinner and O’Brien had the bails off quickly, Lancashire moving to 434-7 at that stage. Davies hit a straight six in Eckersley’s next over, and a pulled four at the start of the 115th over took the score beyond 450.

Horton called time at the end of the over, with other Leicestershire bowling figures as follows: Ollie Freckingham 19-1-100-1, Ben Raine 21-5-59-1, Tom Wells 8-1-22-0, Michael Thornely 5-1-14-0.

A tricky ten-over period lay in wait before lunch and although Angus Robson hit two boundaries in the first over of the innings, including a flowing cover drive, there were three blows.

Oliver Newby (10-3-27-2) dismissed both openers, Smith (0, 3b) dragging onto his stumps before Robson (9, 14b) edged to Andrea Agathangelou at second slip. Kyle Hogg (11-2-28-1) followed that by tempting Eckersley (4, 27b) to have a drive, 'keeper Davies completing his first LV=CC dismissal.

That gave Lancashire another bonus point towards their promotion push, and County went in on 17-3 with Thornely yet to score and O’Brien on three. There was lots of work to do and the batsmen played the situation well. There was plenty of watchful defence after the interval, but the duo then picked off scoring opportunities after getting settled.

O’Brien hit a trio of fours off Newby while Thornely twice struck Hogg to the ropes before collecting four off Newby to move Leicestershire to 50. Simon Kerrigan (1-0-5-0) was introduced to bowl the 22nd over and after five came off it, the players left the field because of rain. They were not to return, with umpires David Millns and George Sharp abandoning the day at 4.45pm.


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