The Wicketkeeper-Batsman's Tale
It is not only cricket writers who like Canterbury. Gareth Cross is quite fond the place as well.
The young wicketkeeper-batsman played his second County Championship match here in 2006, and his half-century either side of lunch today has helped set up Lancashire's bid for their first victory since May and only their second at Canterbury since 1936.
"It's a nice ground and it's a good wicket for me to bat on because it doesn't seam around a lot, it just swings a bit," he said, as he reflected on the day.
Cross also distinguished himself on his appearance here four years ago, making 72 and taking four catches and a stumping in Kent's narrow two-wicket win.
After that season, however, he had to wait until the game at the Rose Bowl this July for his next Championship opportunity and even then he might not have played had not Luke Proctor tweaked a muscle in the warm-up.
In that match, of course, Cross made exactly 100 not out in the second innings, although a good proportion of those runs were scored in the almost certain knowledge that the game would be drawn. It is therefore reasonable to argue that his fifty at the St Lawrence Ground today was worth more to his side than his career-best effort against Hampshire.
The man himself may not be too bothered with such niceties. Having played only four Championship games in five seasons, injuries to Stephen Moore and Procter have given him the chance to command a regular place in the side.
And so once again we are reminded of the narrow line between shimmering success and relative failure. More significantly, we should notice that good luck is often nothing more than opportunity.
The history of cricket is stuffed full of further examples illustrating this point: in 1935 a young batsman called Harold Gimblett had a trial with Somerset and was told that he had not quite made the grade. Then, before Gimblett had left the ground, a player cried off from the game against Essex which was due to begin the next day at the Agricultural Showgrounds, Frome. Gimblett got the nod and scored 123 in the first of his 368 first-class matches, a tally which also included three Tests.
No one can know how Gareth Cross's career will finally develop. He is plainly a valued member of the one-day side and he is only 26 years old. But what was pleasant this morning was to see the certainty of his strokeplay, the way his defensive technique was becoming as secure as his attacking strategy.
"It was obviously a bad way for Steven Moore to get injured, but in the same way it's given me a chance to show what I can do really," he said. "I just need to keep scoring runs and it was a bit disappointing not to get another hundred today. My job is to keep my place in the side now."
Quite so. We do not know whether the third day of this game will be vital in the destinies of these two clubs next season. What we can say is that it was important in the developing career of a still young cricketer called Gareth Cross, a player who, I would take a very large bet, has never heard of Harold Gimblett.
Photo: Simon Pendrigh, Peakpix Digital Images
(c) Lancashire CCC Ltd