Hundred hero Ashwell Prince was delighted to help Lancashire enjoy an impressive start to their Championship match against Middlesex
Prince, the left-handed 34 year-old, has made an impressive start to his third spell with the Red Rose (the others were in 2009 and 2010), highlighted by his 224-ball 121 not out at Liverpool today being his fifth Championship score above 50.
Having to fight back from a potentially sticky situation at 55-3, Prince shared 176 for the fourth wicket inside 61 overs with Steven Croft, who also added a patient 78 to help the Red Rose closed on 276-4 from 96 overs.
Prince, who plays for the Warriors back home in South Africa, explained: "I have been close a few times this season, so it is nice to get over the milestone of a hundred.
“People won’t realise, and I'm probably the only person that knows, that the last 10 times I have been past 50, I haven’t been able to convert. That has been on my mind. It has been a frustrating season for me back home, so it is a bit of a relief today.
"Steven has played very well this season, and he always seems to come to the party when the team needs him. He did it again. It was a nice partnership. I enjoy batting with him. We have shared a few good partnerships so far.
“We needed this. We had to dig deep at Warwickshire, we didn’t want to roll over. If we are honest we put in a way below par performance in the first innings there on a good pitch. This is what we needed to do to kick-start our season."
Patience was the key for the pair on a slow pitch after Paul Horton, Karl Brown and Stephen Moore had fallen for just 19 runs in a six-over spell this morning after Glen Chapple won the toss and elected to bat under sunny skies.
Chapple, included after making a swift recovery from a side injury, won only the second toss in Lancashire's last 13 home matches, and Prince and Croft helped to vindicate their skipper's decision as they batted through the whole of the afternoon as well as portions of the morning and evening sessions too.
Croft's 195-ball innings included just one four and a swept six off the spin of Ollie Rayner, also including 40 singles.
Middlesex had a number of loud shouts for lbw turned down by the umpires, but their only missed opportunity came in the early stages when Moore was dropped in the slips by Dawid Malan on 20 off Gareth Berg's bowling. By that stage, Lancashire were 45-2 in the 20th over.
Horton was run out by Joe Denly's direct hit at the striker's end from cover. Karl Brown fell in the next over when he was caught behind by Bury-born wicketkeeper John Simpson off Berg's medium pace.
Middlesex later managed to get an immediate reward when they took the second new ball as Croft was caught behind when playing forward to Murtagh, leaving the score at 231-4 after one ball of the 85th over.
But Prince, who mixed some crisp stroke-play with his array of deft late cuts and dabs, had already brought up his elusive ton off 206 balls with eight fours, celebrating with a little bit more gusto than maybe he usually would.
"Like I said, I'm probably the only person who knows that I've not passed reached a hundred in the last ten innings I've passed 50. That's why!" he added.
Prince and Luke Procter, who is 15 not out, will resume their 45-run stand for the fifth wicket in the morning.
Prince added: "The wicket is good and we need enough time to get 20 wickets, so we don’t want to be dragging our innings along. We will have to accelerate at some point, which will be difficult because the pitch is on the slow side and the ball isn’t really coming on to the bat. But, if we get another nice partnership early tomorrow, we can then kick on."
Photos (c) Simon Pendrigh
Article (c) Lancashire CCC Ltd