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Match Report STORY
Sun shines on Croft's day
Sun shines on Croft's day
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It can be difficult to keep Steven Croft out of a cricket match.

He is a frontline batsman who can also whack the ball prodigious distances; he is an outstanding groundfielder for whom brilliant catches come as standard; when accepting routine chances he is as safe as the bank - well, actually he is plainly a lot safer than some banks; and he has proved himself to be a thoughtful captain.

Even by Croft's standards, however, Wednesday was special, even though he didn't bat and wasn't skipper. For one thing, the 27-year-old all-rounder took three frontline Worcestershire wickets with his off-spinners at a cost of 64 runs; for another, he was named in the provisional 30-man England squad for the World Twenty20 to be held in Sri Lanka in September.

Add those rather more unusual achievements to Croft's two catches at leg-slip to get rid of James Cameron and Gareth Andrew and his run-out of the obdurate Matt Pardoe for 55 and one can see how the first day of this LV Division One match will always be special to the wholehearted, Blackpool-born cricketer who, as much as anyone, personifies the spirit that won the title last September. 

For the record, Croft's exploits helped Lancashire dismiss Worcestershire for 291 and the Red Rose openers were 12 for no wicket in reply at the close. However, there was no little doubt that the media's first question to one of England's newest recruits on Wednesday evening would concern his first international call-up.

"I got some good news yesterday and it became public today and I was really pleased," said Croft, whose team-mates first knew of his selection when it was announced over the Old Trafford public address by Matt Procter.

"It still seems only half a job done because I've got to wait until the squad gets trimmed down again [to the final 15 in August] but to be noticed is something I'm quite proud of. To be named in an England squad is one of the biggest honours I've achieved and I'm just really pleased to be in that 30. I've never been in a squad before, not the Lions or anything.

"I was a little surprised but I was still quietly backing myself to get in the 30. Geoff Miller [the National Selector] told me he'd keep in touch and to ask if I had any questions. Now I'll hope to put in some good performances before the 18th August when the squad gets reduced. It was difficult to keep it to myself but I've been smiling to myself and it was unbelievable when the news came out today."

Despite Croft's engaging openness, it is still beguiling to ponder the thoughts going through his head as the ball followed him around and offered him a shop window for his talents either side of lunch on Wednesday. First introduced into the attack in the 25th over when Worcestershire had already lost Daryl Mitchell caught by Tom Smith in the gully off Simon Kerrigan, he quickly trapped Phillip Hughes lbw for 32 on the stroke of one o'clock.

Just after lunch he had Moeen Ali pouched by first slip Paul Horton for two and Vikram Solanki caught by Ashwell Prince at backward point for 15. The ball was already turning but Solanki may not be overjoyed with the shot that brought his downfall.

Croft's two catches off successive Kerrigan deliveries left Worcestershire perilously placed on 93 for six but that marked the start of a sturdy fightback for Daryl Mitchell's side, one that was led by Pardoe and Ben Scott.

Scott frustrated Lancashire twice last year, but this summer he had made only 45 runs in 11 innings before Wednesday, when he ground out an invaluable century and was last man out for 106, made off 170 balls and containing 11 fours.

In company with Pardoe, whose 128 runs in eight innings at an average of 18.28 scarcely suggest that he is seeing the ball well, Scott added 127 runs for the seventh wicket and played a large part in ensuring that Worcestershire go into the second day with honours more or less even.

While Croft - of course - ended the stand when the total was 220, Worcestershire's last three wickets still added a further 71 runs: Shaaiq Choudhry scored two but put on 35 with Scott before he was Chapple's only victim of the day; Richard Jones had made 15 and hit Kerrigan for the day's only six when he fell lbw in Smith's first over; and Scott hoisted Kerrigan to Chapple's safe hands at mid-on to leave the slow left armer with figures of four for 117 from 36.1 overs.

Thus a memorable day for Ben Scott and Steven Croft ended, and the crowd, too, will recall the occasion, not least for the unexpected sunshine which carried with it a suggestion of summer at last.

Paul Edwards
Photo (c) Simon Pendrigh
Article (c) Lancashire CCC Ltd