Lancashire's schedule of pre-season tour matches was given an impressive start by openers Tom Smith and Stephen Moore yesterday, the pair sharing a first wicket stand of 178 against Essex at Weymouth.
Ever since the arrival of ex-Worcestershire man Moore last October, there has been a debate rumbling as to who coach Peter Moores would choose as his opening partnership. Would it be Smith and Moore, Smith and Paul Horton as per last season or would it be Moore and Horton?
Moores had said prior to the start of this two-day fixture that his team selection would not give us any indications as to what his side would be for the opening County Championship match of the summer.
But yesterday’s events surely cannot have failed to sew the seed in his head that Moore and Smith is a partnership that could flourish with Horton going about his stuff in the middle order.
The game was played at Weymouth following two venue switches from the original schedule. First it was due to be played at the Kensington Oval, then at the Banks Brewery ground.
But, with the venue decided, play started half an hour late due to a damp wicket. The time was made up at the end of the day.
Lancashire, with skipper Glen Chapple having lost the toss, closed the first day on a commanding 328-6 from 90 overs.
Smith top-scored with 94 off 165 balls, including 17 boundaries, while Moore hit 16 fours as he registered 83 off 134 balls. Steven Croft added a breezy 65 off 80 balls later in the day, bringing up his 50 with a towering six over long-on.
Wicketkeeper Gareth Cross also cracked 43 off 64 balls, including five fours and a six. Luke Sutton was unbeaten on seven off 32 balls and Chapple nought at the end of the day.
“It was good to get out there and score some runs," said 24-year-old Smith. "I was disappointed not to get a hundred, but the time in the middle is far more important. Coming from three degrees in England to 33 degrees is a bit of a shock, but the heat meant it was a good test.
“There has been a bit of a debate as to who was going to open the batting, but Peter came to me and Stephen and asked us if we’d do it. It was good to get out there and put a marker down. Stephen is very particular about his game, very focused, and that rubbed off on me.”
Moore rode his luck early on as he was caught off a Chris Wright no-ball in the second over and dropped twice at slip and off a top-edged hook.
Dutch all-rounder Ryan ten Doeschate (3-39 off nine overs) was the pick of the Essex attack, bowling Moore and trapping both Horton (0) and Smith lbw in consecutive overs as the afternoon drifted on to leave the score at 191-3 in the 52nd over.
Croft and Mark Chilton (23) then shared a fourth wicket partnership of 73 in one ball short of 20 overs before the latter fell to David Masters and the former to the seam of Tony Palladino.
Cross was bowled by Wright before Sutton and Chapple saw their side through to close.
Although nothing has been decided as yet, it is fully expected that Lancashire will declare overnight to give their bowlers some time out in the middle. A tired Smith joked: “Hopefully Saj, Chappie, Hoggy and Newbs can knock ‘em over before I have to bowl.”
Tom Smith (top) and Stephen Moore during their partnership of 178.
Report by Graham Hardcastle
Photos: Simon Pendrigh
(c) Lancashire CCC Ltd