Croft century keeps Lancs in touch
A century from Steven Croft proved vital as Lancashire recovered from a pre-lunch collapse to finish more or less level with Surrey after the second day of this Specsavers County Championship match.
The visitors ended the day on 79-0 in their second innings to lead by 12 runs after Lancashire scored 268 in their first innings.
Resuming on 17-0 in bright, sunny conditions Alex Davies and Rob Jones continued to build on their good work from the previous evening, Davies in particular quick to pounce on any wayward deliveries in adding six boundaries with some lovely attacking strokes.
The opening pair in fact looked relatively untroubled during the first ninety minutes in taking their partnership to 69 with Jones providing solid support to the more adventurous Davies who reached 1,000 first-class runs this season during his innings, becoming the first Lancashire wicketkeeper to reach this milestone-a fantastic achievement.
The rest of the morning proved to be much less rosy for Lancashire as Surrey hit back with five wickets for 11 runs in 11 overs to bring themselves right back in to the game.
Jones edged Rikki Clarke to second slip for 15, Liam Livingstone was lbw to Gareth Batty for 1 and three balls later Davies, having made 54, looped a Clarke delivery to Mark Stoneman at mid-wicket off a leading edge.
Shivnarine Chanderpaul was adjudged lbw to the excellent Clarke for 1 before Dane Vilas also departed lbw to off spinner Batty for 2 from the last ball of the morning to leave Lancashire in trouble on 84-5, still 117 runs behind.
It was captain Croft who led the recovery after lunch, initially with Ryan McLaren who made a determined 16 in nearly an hour before falling lbw to Batty in a partnership worth 56 runs.
Tom Bailey produced an excellent innings of 31 from 49 balls in support of his skipper to add another 63 runs in 17 overs and take Lancashire past Surrey’s first innings 201-8 declared before cutting leg spinner Scott Borthwick to Ollie Pope at backward point.
A third consecutive fifty partnership then took the Red Rose further ahead with Stephen Parry lending great support to Croft who went on to reach a marvellous century, his first of the season, from 161 balls when driving his fourteenth boundary joyously through cover off Batty.
The visitors declined the opportunity to take the new ball for nine overs, persisting with their spin attack, but Lancashire’s innings ended quickly once the new cherry came in to use with three wickets falling in three overs.
Croft glanced the first delivery from Sam Curran down the leg side to wicketkeeper Ben Foakes for to bring his innings to a close on 115, with Parry caught at slip for 20 and Mahmood the last man to go with the total on 268.
That left the visitors 67 runs in arrears with 18 overs to bat, but Rory Burns (27 not out) and Stoneman (44 not out) survived the odd anxious moment to clear the deficit and prosper during the evening sunshine with Surrey nudging ahead at the close on 79-0.
“It was a good day with the bat,” said Steven Croft. “We would have liked a bigger lead but I thought we did really well and got into a great position.
“I was a little bit disappointed with the way we bowled tonight. We leaked a lot of runs where we were looking at getting two or three wickets. It was a little bit of a downer on the day but it’s still all to play for.”
Looking ahead to tomorrow, Croft added: “It’s a good wicket with a little bit of turn. We hopefully will turn it around with the ball tomorrow morning and get a couple of early wickets.
“We still feel confident of chasing a score, it’s a nice deck.
Following a good stat Lancashire were pegged back with Croft saying: “the first session today was one of two halves.
“I thought Jonesy and Alex set a good foundation but when (Rikki) Clarke came on he bowled and to his credit bowled a really good spell. He really tested us.
“It was good to get some partnerships after lunch with the lower order. It felt that once you spent some time at the crease, you felt more comfortable, and I was very pleased to have got some runs myself.
“I’ve never really felt out of nick. I’ve got starts when I’ve been out there at the crease, and felt good in the nets, so it’s been a strange season really.
“Hopefully I can build on this now and keep looking forward.
“To get that (hundred) at Emirates Old Trafford was very pleasing for me personally and hopefully it contributes to a Lancashire win.“
Photo: Simon Pendrigh