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Tim Wigmore at Old Trafford
April 11, 2013
Worcestershire 334 (Moeen 78, Mitchell 74, Andrew 52, Procter 4-58) and 26 for 1 drew with Lancashire 448 for 7 dec (Prince 95, Katich 84, Horton 66, Procter 53)
On the basis of their performances in this game, and a palpable hunger for runs, both Simon Katich and Ashwell Prince might still be playing Test cricket. As it is, their 181-run stand in the draw against Worcestershire might just be the start of the damage they inflict upon Division Two attacks this season.
After a fluent 84, Katich, the former Australia batsman, put his move from Hampshire, where he lifted two trophies last season, down to the persuasive abilities of Peter Moores. "I felt that at this stage of my career, if I was going to get the best out of myself, I needed a bit more prodding," he said. "I thought he was probably going to be the guy to be able to do that. When you do finish playing international cricket, there's something that has to keep driving you.
"I thought he would be able to extract the best out of me at this stage of my career. Obviously you need to extract it yourself, but it helps if there's someone there to prod you as well." Katich described leaving Hampshire as "tough" but added: "I felt for me to have a good summer and to keep going, I needed to do something slightly different."
Katich and Prince, who last played a Test for South Africa in 2011, will surely underpin Lancashire's challenge for Division Two promotion. In a thrilling spell in the morning, they added 110 in 16.1 overs to raise Lancashire hopes of a victory, although rain - which accounted for 111 overs in the game - soon ended those. There were no pyrotechnics but a mixture of positive batting and relentlessly aggressive running was enough to score at seven an over. An almost nonchalant Prince pull for six into the building site and Katich's classy late cuts particularly stood out.
For the entertainment they provided the crowd, perhaps both deserved centuries, but Prince was denied his after being caught at midwicket on 95 attempting to hit a third six and Katich, somewhat surprisingly after the authority with which he'd played, fell attempting to cut Moeen Ali. After mislaying their discipline a little in the first hour, Worcestershire regained it impressively and will be content with a draw from what Division Two counties will regard as the season's hardest fixture.
Last season Prince averaged 44, too often mounting lone resistance amid a top-order collapse. It was a matter of mild surprise when he was ostensibly replaced as overseas player by another left-handed Test veteran in Katich. Except, he wasn't, really: Prince signed as a Kolpak after his Cricket South Africa contract expired last month, and so two overseas players have become one. Lancashire can hardly be blamed for assembling the strongest side possible - and there are several home-grown young players at the club, notably Luke Procter and Karl Brown, who will benefit from the presence of both Katich and Prince - but it remains an anomaly in the complex player eligibility rules.
Moores explained that the rationale behind Katich batting at No. 5, rather than opening as he often did for Australia, was to strengthen the middle-order alongside Prince. "There's a lot of flexibility - they can pretty well bat anywhere," he said. "We decided to go down the route of four-five because we thought it made it a very solid middle order. They're two big hundred-makers to give us some continuity."
Moores said selection before the game had been extremely difficult. "It's the toughest side I've ever picked, I think, to leave out Tom Smith - I don't think we've ever left out Tom in my time when he's been fully fit. And also for Stephen Moore not to play - and Stephen's been playing well. So testament to the guys who've been picked, they've been picked because they've been playing very well, but we also know we've left out two or three people out that have been playing well."
He also confirmed that James Anderson would play in Lancashire's next two games, against Kent and Glamorgan. "Jim's been training with us for the last week and a half, he's great to have around," Moores said. "And it will be exciting to put him back in that team. Who we put him in for, that's a different question. But he'll play."
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