Steven Croft and Ashwell Prince both made big centuries as Lancashire’s batsmen enjoyed comfortably their best day of the season against Northants in the LV= County Championship Division One match at Emirates Old Trafford.
Coming together with their side poorly placed on 33/3 in 14th over, Prince and Croft added 332 for the fourth wicket and put Stephen Peters’s bowlers to the sword in merciless fashion.
Having batted for two minutes short of five hours, Croft was dismissed seven overs before the close for a career-best 156 but Prince remained undefeated on 161 as Lancashire ended the day on 384 for/4 and virtually certain to earn a maximum five batting bonus points for the first time this season.
It was a day when records tumbled almost every over at Emirates Old Trafford. Croft and Prince’s partnership was Lancashire’s highest in first-class matches against Northants and the biggest ever fourth-wicket stand at Emirates Old Trafford. It was also the county’s third-highest stand at Manchester and Lancashire’s biggest partnership for any wicket since 2003.
The brutal slaughter of the visitors’ bowling in the afternoon and evening sessions was a far cry from the atmosphere in the first hour of play when the Northants attack had made good use of early moisture in the Old Trafford wicket and made three breakthroughs.
Alex Davies was lbw when barely half forward to Lancashire old boy Steven Crook for 14 in the 12th over of the innings and Usman Khawaja followed him to the pavilion six balls later when Muhammad Azhar Ullah brought one back off the seam to trap the Australian in front of his stumps for only a single.
The visitors’ success continued in the next over when Paul Horton edged a lifting delivery from Crook to wicketkeeper Ben Duckett and few in the crowd can have guessed then that they were about to witness the making of two centuries and the rewriting of the record books.
However, as the wicket eased and the new ball lost most of its hardness, Croft and Prince settled into their task with ominous ease. The pair added 172 runs in only 35 overs in the afternoon session with Croft reaching three figures for the second time in four innings with a pulled four off spinner James Middlebrook, and Prince following his partner four overs later with a clip to mid-wicket for two off the same bowler.
Having hit 15 fours and two sixes, Croft eventually fell when his tired prod at a ball from Andrew Hall only edged the ball to Middlebrook at slip. Like Croft, Prince returned to a standing ovation but the South African is still there to torment Northants on the second morning. Prince has so far hit 17 fours and three sixes and faced 234 balls in his 332 minute innings.
Crook ended the toughest of days as the most successful of the Northants bowlers with 2 for 63.