If past form is anything to go by, batsman Mal Loye has returned to the Lancashire side at just the right time with tomorrow’s trip to face Durham at Chester-le-Street firmly in his sights.
Loye made his comeback from long-term knee and calf problems in the recent County Championship draw against Somerset at Old Trafford, notching positive scores of 31 and 39 in either innings.
Now the 36 year-old makes the trip to the North East looking to cement his place in a Lancashire side looking for their third LV Division One win of the season, and their third on the road.
And the Riverside ground may just be the place to do it, having notched a double hundred and 114 in successive seasons dating back to 2005.
"I used to hate playing there, suddenly I got a score, now I have got two hundreds to my name," said Loye, who succinctly answered the question of what has changed. "Getting 200," he chuckled.
A 279-ball 200 in July, 2005 was his first appearance for the Red Rose county at the Riverside. He had notched scores of four, eleven and six for Northamptonshire before that, and followed it with 114 off 200 balls in April, 2006.
He recorded 41 in 2007, while he also hit 43 and 77 in the last two Friends Provident Trophy matches there. Just to top things off nicely, he walloped 89 off 62 balls in a Twenty20 Cup match two years ago.
Loye says he is "just happy to be playing" after appearing in his first competitive match of 2009 following an injury nightmare which began prior to the club's pre-season to the UAE in March, then flared up again during the University friendly against Durham UCCE the following month.
"It's been a long nine months, a frustrating time, but it's good to be back," he continued. "I played a game last week for the seconds, got through that ok, and this game as well. It's been a pleasure to play."
He pulled a calf muscle attempting to take a quick single early in the match against the students in April, but found that it led to a recurrence of a progressive knee injury.
"It was a little bit more serious than we first thought," he explained. "Especially coming at the back end of the winter, with the season approaching, knowing that the injury was not getting any better.
"Thankfully after two or three injections and the rehab work that I have done, I am pretty much there. I have to look beyond the past now, look to the future at Durham this week.
"I am just happy to be playing. I know that it was a tough decision for Chappie to leave out Steven Croft, but that is one of those things. I am little disappointed not to have got an 80 or a 60 in the first innings, then a score in the second, to cement my position."
Loye's two innings of 31 off 41 balls and 39 off 139 were contrasting to say the least, but equally, both just as heartening as each other.
"I haven't had many nets," he explained. "In the first innings I couldn't leave a ball, I tried to hit every ball, and that is the wrong way to go in a four-day game. In the second innings it was an opportunity for me to have a long, long bat. It was great to get a couple of hours at the crease."
He admitted that there has been no reaction to either the knee or calf, but there were a few skipped heartbeats when he copped a blow on the right hand from a rising David Stiff delivery yesterday.
He admitted that he feared the worst at first, but was relieved to admit the only pain he felt at close was a bit of general stiffness after a few days in the field.
"I thought in the field we were fantastic," he continued. "I know that we had a couple of dropped catches, but that was up there with one of the best fielding displays that I have been involved in.
"As a batting unit we were pretty disappointed because there were four pretty poor shots in the first innings. In the second innings we should have seen the job off two or three wickets down, but that was one of those things on the last day."
Claiming nine points from the draw against the Cidermen means Lancashire sit second in LV Division One, just one point clear of the reigning champions, Durham.
Loye added: "There are two very good sides, which is what it is all about. These are the games that you want to play in. I think there is a huge amount of confidence in the camp in any form of cricket. I am sure if the weather stays fine, we will get some sort of result.
"We have only played four games in the Championship, we have won two and drawn two, and I hope we can build on it."
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