Steven Croft followed Paul Horton's lead with a composed century to assert Lancashire's authority over Surrey
It would not be cricket in the summer of 2012 without rain, which arrived on the cusp of 3pm during the second day of this LV= County Championship match at Guildford with the Red Rose county well placed at 425-7 from 128 overs, their highest score of the season so far.
But there was enough time for impressive Croft to make the most of being given two lives late on Wednesday’s first day - on nought and three by wicketkeeper Steve Davies and second slipper Kartik Murali off Chris Tremlett and Stuart Meaker.
The 27 year-old number five was reserved during the morning session today, happy to play the anchor role as Glen Chapple took the lead during a seventh-wicket stand of 121 inside 29 overs either side of lunch.
But he batted with more gusto during the afternoon on the way to his second century of the season in this format, and the fifth of his career, finishing on 104 not out off 167 balls. Chapple added 46 having seen Ashwell Prince fall for 34.
Should Lancashire opt to bat on tomorrow morning, Ajmal Shahzad will be Croft’s partner.
“I’m really pleased,” admitted Croft, who has now scored 511 runs this term as he edges towards his goal of 1,000 runs for the first time. “Twenty20’s got me going a bit this year. It happened last year too. I felt confident out there.
“When you return to Championship cricket after a bit of a break, you’ve not got to get too carried away. Obviously it’s about being watchful as well as keeping that positive mindset.
“Glen batted brilliantly. He came in and played his natural game, and we got a good partnership going. I tried to get the pace of the pitch this morning, then they took the new ball. I tried to get the pace and the movement and go from there.
“If you bowl in a good area, there’s something there for you. Hopefully when we bowl, we’ll stay in the area a bit more than they did.”
Lancashire may have lost three wickets, but they progressed with intent, instigated by skipper Chapple when he arrived at the crease in the 97th over.
With his side’s hopes of posting four batting bonus points hanging in the balance at 298-6, Chapple counter-attacked with effect as he and Croft restored their side’s definite advantage in entertaining fashion.
Prince had chipped Kartik's left-arm spin to Zander de Bruyn at mid-wicket when trying to play much straighter, leaving the visitors at 252-4 in the 85th over, the fourth of the morning.
Tom Smith was run out just under nine overs later as de Bruyn uprooted middle stump at the non-striker’s end with a direct hit from wide of mid-off, Smith failing to make his ground despite a full length dive.
And when Gareth Cross, who got off the mark with a crisp cut off Jon Lewis, was caught at mid-wicket by Zafar Ansari after failing to control a short-armed pull, Lancashire were six down and still short of 300.
But Croft, who reached a 94-ball fifty with a leg-glance to the boundary off Meaker - his seventh four, and Chapple changed the direction of the tide in less than an hour before the lunch break.
Croft played an eye-catching late cut off Kartik before Chapple edged de Bruyn’s medium pace wide of the slips in the 100th over before clipping Meaker off his legs in the 101st, an over which also saw the Lancashire skipper emphatically pull a flat six over mid-wicket.
Croft clipped the first ball of the afternoon session, bowled by de Bruyn, off his legs to the mid-wicket fence before Chapple played a similar shot later in the over, albeit with a little bit more force, edging the next ball over the slips as 15 came off the over.
The pair brought up their century stand within the first hour after lunch when Chapple drove Lewis back past him, a shot which also signalled 401-6 in the 120th over.
Croft reached his fifth Championship century off 160 balls with his 12th boundary, a drive through the covers off Meaker. It was quickly followed by Chapple’s departure, trapped lbw by Lewis to leave the score 419-7 in the 126th.
Lancashire have now lost 1,048 overs in the Championship this summer. They only lost 234 in the whole of last season!
1st day report
Photo of Steven Croft (c) Nigel French/EMPICS Sport
Article (c) Lancashire CCC Ltd