KEATON Jennings held together Lancashire’s second innings with a patient half-century on a truncated day’s cricket against Essex at Chelmsford.

The Lancashire captain batted throughout the 36 overs possible before rain returned at tea leading to a premature end of the day.

By that time Jennings, the leading LV= Insurance County Championship run-scorer last season, had racked up 80 runs from 170 balls and shared in an unbeaten fifth-wicket stand of 56 with 20-year-old wicketkeeper George Bell (30 not out).

When play was finally called off at 4.45pm, Lancashire were 167 for four with a lead of 155 going into the final day.

Heavy overnight rain had left puddles in the outfield and the umpires required two morning inspections before deciding play could resume after an early lunch.

There was an immediate surprise as Jamie Porter and Sam Cook switched from their more familiar bowling ends.

Porter quickly acquainted himself with the River End, though, and with the fourth ball of the day had Josh Bohannon playing down the wrong line and losing his off-stump.

The change did not inconvenience Cook either and in his third over he found the edge of Steven Croft’s bat with Dan Lawrence taking a smart diving catch to his right at third slip Dane Vilas showed attacking intent with a straight drive, a flick off the legs and a hook for boundaries before he miscued a massive heave and skied Doug Bracewell to mid-on to depart for 13 and leave Lancashire on 111 for four.

After losing three wickets inside six overs, Jennings and Bell bedded down into preservation-mode partnership that was enlivened by a perfectly-timed straight drive off Porter by Jennings and a rare boundary off Simon Harmer through the covers from Bell.

Essex had an injury scare when Cook limped off mid-over as a precaution after landing awkwardly on his left ankle.

They were already reduced to fielding Michael Pepper as replacement wicketkeeper after Adam Rossington damaged his hand.