Paul Edwards reports as Lancashire make progress on the second day at Stanley Park
Karl Brown and Steven Croft enlivened and illuminated some frankly drear and rather damp weather in the final session of the second day at Blackpool with an unbroken 90-run partnership for the fourth wicket as Lancashire maintained a firm grip on their LV= Division One match against Worcestershire.
Coming together when Glen Chapple's side were uncertainly placed on 77 for three twelve overs after tea, the two young Lancastrians batted with a mixture of languid style and polished power in gathering gloom on the Fylde to leave the Red Rose side on 167 for three as the rain closed in. That left their side with a lead of 247 when added to the 80-run advantage Lancashire had taken into the second half of the game
At the close Brown was unbeaten on 55, having stroked seven incurably smooth boundaries to reach his fifty, and first innings centurion Croft was on 39 not out. The pair helped Lancashire recover after a pair of Gareth Andrew strikes had set the home side back early in the evening session.
Andrew had Paul Horton caught at slip for 35 and trapped Tom Smith lbw for just four to jeopardise Lancashire's hopes of setting a big target in the fourth innings. Those aspirations had been dented initially by left-arm spinner Shaaiq Choudhry, who had dismissed Stephen Moore for 26 with the final ball before tea when the ex-Worcestershire batsman slashed him to Aneesh Kapil at backward point.
That breakthrough had ended an extremely watchful first-wicket partnership of 41 in 17 overs as Moore and Horton saw off the new ball, the Sefton Park batsman taking 35 balls to get off the mark.
However, Croft and Brown profited from the openers' groundwork and both batted with fluent ease in poor light, Brown reaching his half-century off 71 balls. The first session tomorrow should be worth watching. Skipper Chapple, though, was simply happy to acknowledge the contribution of all his batsmen on Thursday evening.
“The last hour of the day was particularly good," he said. “Crofty has been playing well in one-day cricket especially and we always felt a big score was around the corner for him. In the last couple of games he has come right into form. He is a really competitive cricketer and his all-round game has been great all year.
“We are not there yet though. We have to take every session as it comes but we are happy where we are so far. Hopefully we will get a good lead, but there is plenty of work still to do."
“The run rate picks up as the ball gets older and then the batsmen can get on top," pointed out Chapple, as he assessed a tricky decision over any possible declaration.
"We saw 10 wickets fall for 37 last night and this morning," he said. "So it was crucial to see off the new ball because it digs into the pitch and you have to be wary. There is not much pace in the pitch and as the ball gets softer it can sit up to be hit. When it starts doing that and you have wickets in hand, you are in a good place."
In Worcestershire's first innings Andrew made 61 and wicketkeeper Ben Scott a resilient 117-ball 65 not out as Daryl Mitchell's side built on an overnight 77 for five to post a respectable 202.
In the first session of the day Lancashire encountered stiff resistance as Worcestershire saved the follow-on and added 87 runs for the loss of three wickets. Yet the morning had begun in ideal fashion for the Red Rose when Kapil edged Chapple's fifth ball of the morning to Gareth Cross behind the stumps.
At that point Daryl Mitchell's side still needed 56 to avoid being asked to bat again, but Andrew and Scott knocked off those runs in confident fashion, sharing a 67-run partnership for the seventh wicket in less than 18 overs.
Both batsmen were given lives, Andrew being reprieved on his overnight score of 28 when Croft grassed a difficult diving catch at third slip off Kyle Hogg. Scott then skied Gary Keedy to deep mid-on 14 overs later, but Moore could not cling on to the testing chance as he sprinted back from his orthodox position.
Andrew eventually fell for a fine 94-ball 61 when he sliced a drive to gully, where Croft held a fine diving catch, and Choudhry was caught for nine on the stroke of lunch when he edged a lifting delivery from Saj Mahmood to first-slip Horton. Despite that last reverse, though, Worcestershire supporters were probably well pleased to see their side go into lunch on 164 for eight.
Helped by Scott, the tailenders needed prising out in the early afternoon too. Although Richard Jones played on to Mahmood for seven in the fifth over after lunch, Alan Richardson hung around for half an hour to add a further 24 runs with Scott.
The Pears wicketkeeper had another life when he inside-eged Smith wide of Cross and had made 65 not out when Richardson guided Mahmood to Brown at backward point. Scott's second fifty of the season had helped his side to restrict their first innings deficit to just 80, still substantial, but riches indeed compared to Worcestershire's situation on Wenesday evening.
Mahmood's late strikes earned him figures of three for 39, while Chapple took 4 for 47 and Hogg 2 for 29. Farveez Maharoof claimed one for 34.
Day 1 Report
Photos (c) Simon Pendrigh
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