A DAZZLING century by Simon Katich helped power promotion-chasing Lancashire to the brink of a first-innings lead against Worcestershire in the LV= County Championship Division Two match at New Road.

The Australian left-hander, who celebrated his 38th birthday on Wednesday, smacked an undefeated 104 off 89 balls in the visitors’ total of 271 for five off 66 overs in reply to the hosts’ 287.

He was confidently backed up by Luis Reece and Ashwell Prince, who both scored impressive half-centuries.

Katich, who plundered his century between lunch and tea, was in deadly form on his way to completing 1,000 Championship runs in a season in which he has now notched four Division Two tons.

He narrowly missed out on three figures in the Red Rose county’s opening match of the campaign, when he hit 84 off the Worcestershire attack in a rain-hit draw at Emirates Old Trafford.

This time he made certain of reaching the milestone before play was called off for the day eight balls after tea because of poor light and drizzle.

Lancashire lost nightwatchman Glen Chapple, who played out one scoreless over before stumps yesterday, to the fourth ball of the morning when he fell victim to a leg-side catch by wicketkeeper Ben Cox off paceman Graeme Cessford.

The captain’s quick-fire dismissal set the scene for a 77-run partnership in 21 overs between Reece and Paul Horton, who took 21 balls to get off the mark.

He went on to make 30 before being well caught low down by diving Alan Richardson at backward square leg off spinner Moeen Ali’s final delivery of his first over.

Reece, joined by Prince, completed his half-century off 84 balls with 10 fours before Lancashire went in for lunch at 110 for two off 33 overs.

The 23-year-old left-hander, however, departed in the first over after the interval when paceman Alan Richardson had him caught in the slips by Moeen for 59 – his third half-century in his last three Championship innings.

His removal left Prince and Katich with the task of building Lancashire’s total, which they successfully achieved with a partnership that quickly gathered momentum.

Prince reached his 50 with eight fours off 85 balls while the next delivery by Moeen was hammered for six by Katich to bring up his 50 off 55 balls. It was his second maximum to go with eight fours.

Their combined efforts blossomed into a stand worth 92 in 20 overs before they were broken up by Cessford, who had Prince smartly caught at short cover by Thilan Samaraweera for 52.

Katich, who smashed 24 off one Joe Leach over, had piled up four sixes and 14 fours by the time Lancashire, who lost Andrea Agathangelou to Richardson for 14, went in to tea on 268 for five off 64.4 overs.