Ashwell Prince and Steven Croft combined with devastating effect to guide Lancashire to a seven-wicket victory over Glamorgan Dragons at Old Trafford on Sunday.
Steven Croft’s week could hardly have gone better. Having scored a swashbuckling 93 in the Championship draw against Kent, in which he also took one of best catches in his career, he went onto guide Lancashire to a crucial Clydesdale Bank 40 victory over Glamorgan at Old Trafford today.
But, on top of all that, he also went out to bat this afternoon safe in the knowledge that his beloved Blackpool Football Club had reached the Coca Cola Championship play-offs – and are just three games away from the Premier League.
“It’s been a good day,” said Croft, who hit 84 not out in the midst of an unbroken fourth wicket partnership of 186 with Ashwell Prince.
Lancashire, in their pursuit of 272 for a first Group A win, had been placed on the back foot as James Harris claimed two wickets to reduce the hosts to 89-3 in the 14th over of their chase.
But Croft and Prince, who completed a magnificent 102 not out off 82 balls when he hit the winning runs in the latter stages of the 38th over, timed things to perfection.
In fading light the pair recovered the situation slowly but surely before exploding in the last ten overs. They took 41 runs from the four overs of batting powerplay, while Croft survived a dropped catch by Harris on 73.
This was the third time this season that Croft and Prince have shared a hundred partnership, with two of them coming in the County Championship.
Croft said: “Ashwell is great to bat with. He has a calm head on his shoulders, always looks on the positive side, never really panics - and it is rubbing off on me. I am really enjoying batting with him as well.”
While this was South African Prince’s second hundred of the week, Croft is also in superb form. He has scored five half-centuries in seven innings this summer.
He continued: “I am feeling really good with the bat. Coming into the season we had lost a couple of really good batsmen. I just wanted to cement that spot down, and get that role for myself.
“Through the winter we weren’t that sure whether Faf was coming back. He wasn’t, and I wanted to be the first name to replace him.”
Tom Smith and Paul Horton got the Lightning off to a speedy start, bringing up their side’s fifty in the seventh over, but Harris forced Horton to scoop to mid-off and had Stephen Moore caught at mid-on.
David Brown also bowled Smith for 33, but then it was all about Prince and Croft. Prince had only hit one boundary in his half-century, but hit eight in his second 50 runs. Croft hit two sixes and seven fours, and the game was up for the visitors when Lancashire unleashed between overs 33-36.
Croft continued: “There is always more time than you think in a one-dayer. We assessed it after each over, then when the power play came we stepped on it and tried to win it in those four overs. The key is to have two players who have been In for a while when we come to the final powerplay.”
Tom Maynard had earlier given Glamorgan hope in their quest for only their third 40-over win since September 2008 with a brilliant unbeaten century of his own. After Jamie Dalrymple won the toss and elected to bat, the Dragons reached 271-4 with some power hitting from the son of coach Matthew Maynard.
His 68-ball 103 included ten fours and three sixes. He built on an opening stand of 86 between Mark Cosgrove and Jim Allenby. Allenby hit 40 and Cosgrove 50 off 53 balls.
Left-arm spinner Stephen Parry claimed the wickets of both on the way to figures of 2-41 from eight overs, and he was the pick of the home attack. But Maynard and Dalrymple (31) shared 60 for the third wicket before the former and Brown shared a fourth wicket stand of 101 in ten overs.
Maynard hit two sixes and two fours as he helped take 22 runs of Glen Chapple in the 37th over of the innings - and Brown only scored 27 runs of the fourth wicket stand.
As for Seasider Croft, he added: “I had a few mates in the crowd, and a few stewards told me that we’d got in the play-offs. I was in a good mood before I batted.”
But there’s only one downer. He may not be able to go to Wembley if they beat Nottingham Forest in the semi-finals: “I think I’m at a wedding that day,” he sighed.
Graham Hardcastle at Old Trafford
Photos: Simon Pendrigh, Peakpix Digital Images
(c) Lancashire CCC Ltd