Luke Procter scored his maiden century for Lancashire as the Division Two champions elect asserted their authority during today's second day against Gloucestershire at Bristol after a sticky start.
The 25-year-old left-hander passed 50 for the sixth time in his last eight Championship innings on the way to a 208-ball ton, his first in any form of first-team cricket since debuting in 2009.
Procter came to the crease with the Red Rose on 38-3 in the 13th over of their penultimate LV= County Championship match of 2013, which was badly rain-affected during Tuesday’s first day.
But he shared a partnership of 159 inside 59 overs with Tom Smith before being trapped lbw by Will Gidman for 106 off 227 balls after tea. The pair fell just short of breaking Lancashire's record partnership for the fifth-wicket against Gloucestershire.
Lancashire reached the halfway stage of the match at 297-7 from 106 overs with Smith unbeaten on 88 off 216 balls and Kyle Hogg on three. They need a maximum of nine more points from their last two matches, including this, to win promotion as champions
“It was amazing. To do that after getting all those fifties was good,” admitted a relieved and delighted Procter. “I really enjoyed it.
“It was doing my head in a bit. I've had six (fifties) on the trot now, and it was just on my mind a bit. I pulled through this one, which was good. Hopefully I can do it a few more times in the near future.
“It all depends on how we bowl, but it feels like it's a good score that we've got. It's the kind of pitch where you don't feel in at all. To get a good partnership like that was good for the team. When they bowled straight, it was nibbling around a little bit. It was quite hard to score.”
Lancashire lost Paul Horton and Ashwell Prince during day one and Karl Brown superbly caught behind by a diving Gareth Roderick off Gidman for 23 one ball into the third over today.
Procter and Luis Reece then shared 67 for the fourth wicket to steady the ship before the latter fell 15 short of posting his eighth Championship fifty in a row when he played on as he aimed an expansive shot at seamer David Payne through the leg-side, leaving the score at 105-4 before lunch.
In conditions favouring the bowlers, Lancashire’s progress was never going to be speedy. They scored 78 in 30 overs during the morning session and 91 in 34 during the afternoon.
But the fact that Procter and Smith batted unbroken through the afternoon session to pick up a first batting bonus point for passing 200 put their side in an extremely healthy state.
Procter brought up his fifty off 115 balls with eight fours before Smith’s came off 128 with the same number of boundaries. Procter was particularly impressive on the drive straight down the ground and through the covers and Smith on the cut.
There was even a quirky passage of play which saw Gloucestershire left-arm spinner’s Tom Smith bowling to Lancashire’s Tom Smith midway through the afternoon session.
Procter reached the magical three-figure mark off 208 balls with 13 fours after tea before being trapped lbw playing to leg against Gidman, who finished the day with 4-58 from 24 overs.
Alex Davies was later caught behind off left-arm seamer Matt Taylor and Glen Chapple caught at mid-on off Benny Howell.
Procter started the season opening the batting, but believes he has found a role which suits him in the middle order. He added: “It feels like it. Five and six has been perfect for me in the last half of the season. I don't think opening was my spot really. It was a good experience opening the batting, and I had a few decent scores. I just wasn't consistent enough up there.”
Lancashire go in to the third day just nine points away from clinching the second division title.
Picture (c) Simon Pendrigh