Croft and Brown lead Lancs fightback
Steven Croft and Karl Brown produced a great fightback with an unbroken century partnership to rescue the Lancashire innings against Warwickshire in this Specsavers County Championship match at Emirates Old Trafford today.
The pair came together with the Red Rose struggling on 91-4 and their determined alliance steered Lancashire through to the close in far better shape on 196-4 in their first innings.
At the start of the day Lancashire awarded a first-class debut to 19 years-old Matt Parkinson, the young leg spinner replacing Simon Kerrigan who has a slight back strain, and one of two changes from the previous County Championship clash against Yorkshire, with Arron Lilley replacing the injured Tom Bailey.
It meant Lancashire went in to the game with two front line spinners for the first time this season, plus having the leg spin of Liam Livingstone to call upon while Warwickshire chose to play just their off spinner Jeetan Patel and leave out leg spinner Josh Poysden.
Lancashire captain Croft once again took the wicketkeeping role with Jos Buttler returning to England duty and Alex Davies out of action with a knee injury.
Rain prevented any play until 2pm leaving 67 overs to be bowled and Warwickshire, with the damp conditions around and the wicket covered up to the start of play, unsurprisingly opted to bowl first. They made early inroads too, with both Lancashire opening batsmen back in the dressing room by the fourth over, with the score 6-2.
Tom Smith made 2 before edging an attempted drive off Keith Barker to wicketkeeper Tim Ambrose, who took a good catch diving to his left, and Haseeb Hameed was lbw for a duck after a missing a yorker from Rikki Clarke.
Alviro Petersen and Luke Procter mixed solid defence with some nice counter-attacking strokes to add 40 runs across 12 overs, but having weathered the early pace attack Petersen departed to the second ball of spin when he swept Patel to Sam Hain at short leg to leave Lancashire 46-3 in the 16th over.
Procter continued to keep the visitors at bay throughout the afternoon session with a determined innings but survived a ‘life’ on 33 in the over before tea, which Lancashire reached on 82-3, when a fairly straightforward catch off Boyd Rankin went towards the slips but ended up on the grass.
The miss did not prove costly as Procter was out for 36 soon after the resumption, advancing down the wicket but beaten for turn from Patel to be smartly stumped by Ambrose leaving the Red Rose poorly placed on 91-4.
Steven Croft and Karl Brown battled hard against some accurate bowling from the Warwickshire attack over the course of the evening session, taking few risks as they built slowly towards a respectable score, initially taking 17 overs to add just 32 runs.
Patel, bowling from the Pavilion End, found enough turn to ensure some respectful treatment of his bowling with his first 16 overs bringing a return of 2-30, and the Warwickshire attack in general bowled straight and gave little away throughout the day.
Croft however remained resolute, sweeping Patel backward of square leg for four to go to his half-century garnered patiently from 107 balls, including 6 fours.
The Lancashire skipper then hit the first six of the match by slog-sweeping Patel high over square leg to bring up his 50 partnership with Brown off 120 balls and the pair began to play with more freedom during the final hour of the day as the sun shone.
Brown reigned in his more normal attacking style to contribute a valuable unbeaten 41 by the close from 98 balls with Croft still there on 82 in a fifth wicket partnership worth 105 runs.
It was a great fightback which ensured Lancashire ended the day on 196-4 from 67 overs.
Ashley Giles was pleased with the resilience shown by the batsmen today.
“We had good partnerships down the order,” he said.
“I thought Luke Procter and Crofty played really well, but that was a really good partnership at the end and fantastic for the captain to get a score under his belt.”
“I think we would have batted (first) anyway,” he added. “But we knew the wicket would be difficult for a period up front having been under the covers, but I thought Crofty and Proccy weathered that storm very well.
“We are in a decent position but still have a lot of work to do.
“We know that if we lose a couple of wickets in the morning, it’s (then) a different game so these two really need to kick on tomorrow.
“We know what the conditions are like here. There’s always going to be something in it with the new ball. But the wicket is dry and a couple of balls have already spun so hopefully that trend will continue and the ball will spin more. We will have to wait and see.
Giles was full of praise for his captain as well.
"He’s took a lot on his shoulders. He’s keeping wicket in this match, batting at number five and captaining. It’s a big workload but I’ve got nothing but praise for Crofty, and particularly how he’s handled himself today.
“He picked his moments to be a bit more attacking and I hope he can go on and make it a big one tomorrow. If he does it will make a massive difference to us in this match.”
Photo of Stephen Croft by Simon Pendrigh