"Brilliant" is a much overused word.
A telephonist at a sales centre who implies that that it is "brilliant" that callers can remember their names is unlikely to make many deals: suggesting that someone is an apprentice moron rarely puts them in a mood to part with their dosh.
However, if we take the word to mean "superb, magnificent, glorious, wonderful," then we may this evening salute Ashwell Prince, whose 129 against Somerset on Friday ticks all the boxes necessary for the adjective to be attached.
The innings does more than that, though. What made Prince's innings so special, quite apart from the precision of the batsmen's technique and footwork and the near faultless execution of shot, was its context. Lancashire, we all know, are in danger of being relegated. When they were 50 for six this morning and had a lead of only 86 over Somerset, that grim prospect had moved rather closer.
The departure of Prince, who had been dropped on six by Alfonso Thomas when the bowler failed to hang on to a sharp return catch, may well have seen the game end on Friday - and not in a nice way.
The South African made Somerset pay for their error. In company with Kyle Hogg he added 98 for the seventh wicket and three further partnerships with Glen Chapple, Ajmal Shahzad and Simon Kerrigan had seen Lancashire's lead extended to 278 when Prince was last out attempting to hit Peter Trego over square leg.
"The guys who come in down the order can all bat and I have great confidence in all of them," said Prince "I knew I didn't have to slog every ball." To one observer it seemed that Prince didn't slog any of his 213 balls during his 318-minute stay at the crease. False shots, he played a few, but then again, too few to mention.
There were boundaries, of course, 13 of them, but four of those were struck after the 35-year-old had reached his century. More usually there was the signature tuck off the hip on the leg side, the clip off the toes to the overpitched ball and the punched drive, one of which brought up a century which Prince celebrated with arms loft and a curious little shudder of delight.
Hogg's contribution was vital too. This was, by far, his longest innings of the season and he gave Prince just the sort of commonsense support he required. When Hogg was out, caught by mid off Steve Kirby to give slow left-armer Jack Leach his first championship wicket, Lancashire had seized the initiative back from Marcus Trescothick's bowlers. The lead was 184.
"Kyle's got a good technique, he's tall, he hits the ball nicely and under the circumstances he handled the pressure well," said Prince. "He took on a good option but didn't get enough elevation on the shot."
Yet the measured control and reassuring tempo of Lancashire's last four partnerships was in the sharpest contrast to events in the first eighty minutes of the day when chaos was the watchword and the Lord of Misrule held sway.
One of the more manic collapses in Lancashire's recent history began when Peter Trego bowled Paul Horton off the inside edge with the fifth ball of the day as the opener tried to take his bat away. This was unusual enough but the home batsmen soon even more bizarre ways to get themselves out.
A disastrous mix-up with Karl Brown led to Stephen Moore being run out for a single while Brown himself was lbw playing no shot to Steve Kirby for six. That left Lancashire on 7 for three after 21 balls; even worse was to follow.
Steven Croft's irresponsible slash to Alfonso Thomas only succeeded in under-edging the ball onto his stumps and the same bowler removed Andrea Agathangelou's middle stump when the championship debutant paid the penalty for attempting an ambitious drive. Finally when Thomas and Kieswetter combined well to run out Gareth Cross, Lancashire were 50 for six after a morning which Prince described laconically "a bit frantic".
What Lancashire supporters had needed from their top order was batting which suggested Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony; what they got was Stravinsky's Rite of Spring
All this was something of a distant memory when Chapple had Arul Suppiah lbw for just four in the third over of Somerset's second innings and then again when the players came in at the close with Somerset on 22 for one. But there could have been no pleasanter sight than that of Nick Compton, the only man who has now made more championship runs than Prince, congratulating the South African on his innings. Perhaps he considered it brilliant.
We have had two wonderful days' cricket at Liverpool and there is one more to come. Lancashire need nine wickets; Somerset require 257 more runs and they have some powerful batsmen.
"We've given ourselves a chance and that's all that we can ask for," said Prince. "My century will mean a lot more to me if we win tomorrow and a win will be a big result to us. It's like we're playing for two trophies at the moment. We're going well in the CB40 and staying up would be like wining another trophy.
"It will take a good batting effort for them to score those runs in the fourth innings. The wicket is deteriorating a bit now and hopefully tomorrow it will get a lot worse. It's definitely started to turn now and not just out of the rough. We have a strong bowling unit and hopefuly we can pull through. We've given ourselves a chance and that's all that we can ask for."
Reports: Day 1 I Day 2
Article (c) Lancashire CCC Ltd
Photo (c) Simon Pendrigh