Simon Katich's fourth fifty in seven Championship innings gave Lancashire the advantage at the end of a rain-shortened first day of their LV= Division Two match against Gloucestershire at Aigburth.
The 37-year-old Australian proved that he had returned to full fitness after being hit on the head in the nets at Southampton last week by making 73 not out off 108 balls as the Red Rose side reached a very respectable 175 for four off 48.4 overs.
Katich shared stands of 64 for the fourth wicket with Ashwell Prince and an unbroken 85 for the fifth with a clearly confident Steven Croft as Lancashire recovered from the first hour of the morning session in which Gloucestershire had reduced Glen Chapple's side to 26 for three inside 12 overs.
"There's always a little bit in a first-day wicket early on but thankfully we managed to put a couple of partnerships together," said Katich. "The wicket was pretty good but drier than we thought after looking at it yesterday. That's the reason we batted and if there's good weather it might spin a little bit and dry out some more. However, there's still a lot of work for our batsmen do.
"Ashwell and I have got some good partnerships already this season so it was nice to get the score ticking over and get us to a decent position. Unfortunately, the partnership broke but Steven Croft came out and played beautifully for his 43 not out and we're now in a position where we will look to kick on. The hope is that Steven Croft and Gareth Cross's hundreds against Hampshire will hold them both in good stead for the next phase of cricket we've got coming up."
Katich also declared himself fully fit after his unexpected blow in the nets last week. "I had a hit yesterday and felt okay and I said to our guys that I felt ready to go but I wouldn't know until I got out there. It's just nice to be playing because it was a bit of a shock last week. You don't expect balls to fly like the one did. If it had been a short ball then I would have totally expected it but it just flew off a normal length. It was one of those things you couldn't do much about."
But while Katich and Lancashire may go into the second day of this game in quietly confident mood, it was by no means plain sailing with a following wind for the Red Rose batsmen early on the first morning.
Craig Miles struck the first blow for the visitors when he squared up Stephen Moore with a fine delivery which the Red Rose opener could only edge to Michel Klinger at slip. Moore's departure for only four was followed three overs later by that of his opening partner Andrea Agathangelou who was lbw on the front foot to the Northern Irish seamer Graeme McCarter when he had made 14.
And a fine period of play for Gloucestershire in general and McCarter in particular was completed when the strongly-built seamer had Karl Brown taken at slip by Alex Gidman when he had only a single to his name. That dismissal left Lancashire poorly placed but the grooved techniques of Prince and Katich ensured that the visitors enjoyed no further successes before lunch, which was taken early because of bad light when the home side had reached 80 for three off 25.5 overs.
However, any hopes Red Rose supporters harboured that Prince and Katich would share another stand of major significance were demolished two overs after lunch when the South African followed a ball from Liam Norwell and was caught by wicketkeeper Gareth Roderick for 29.
But Katich and Croft stood firm against the Gloucestershire's predominantly seam attack - slow left-armer Ed Young did not bowl until the 40th over - and had taken the score to 175 for four when bad light and heavy rain stopped play at three o'clock.
The rain stopped briefly before returning with renewed vigour and it was no surprise when the umpires called off play for the day just before 4.45p.m
Katich hit nine boundaries in his accomplished innings but Croft displayed all the assurance of a man who had made a century in his previous Championship knock by hitting half a dozen fours and a six in his 69-ball 43 not out. Lancashire supporters will be hoping their side can stretch their first innings beyond 300 on a pitch which seems shorn of grass and may help the spinners later in the game.
Photo (c) Simon Pendrigh