Lancashire v Gloucestershire, Aigburth, 1st day May 29, 2013

Katich heads off Lancashire problems

Paul Edwards at Aigburth

Lancashire 175 for 4 (Katich 73*) v Gloucestershire

Simon Katich is a pretty hard-headed cricketer. That, at least, was proved literally true when he was declared fit for this game against Gloucestershire having missed last week's draw at Hampshire due to a blow on the skull he received from Jordan Clark in the Southampton nets on the first morning of that match.

But Katich is also the possessor of a grooved technique in which he clearly has great faith. That faith was also justified in this game as he made 73 not out, his fourth Championship score over fifty in seven innings this season, to help Lancashire reach the relative prosperity of 175 for 4 on a day when bad light and rain sliced off just over half the day's allocation of overs.

Katich's side were in serious need of his punches through the covers and his clips through the leg side. Gloucestershire were up north to play a County Championship match in Liverpool for the first time since 1961 and for an hour or so Lancashire's batsmen did indeed find their opponents as irresistible as Francis Thompson envisaged in his famous poem.

This was not because the visitors boasted any great champions of the Graces' stamp - the eras of such riches are long gone in the West Country - but rather because they could call on willing workers like Graeme McCarter, a 20-year-old seamer from Londonderry, who has been with the county's academy since 2008.

McCarter it was who had Andrea Agathangelou lbw on the front foot for 14 and Karl Brown pouched by Alex Gidman at first slip for 1 as Lancashire slipped to 26 for 3 inside the first 12 overs after winning the toss and opting to bat on a wicket which appears shorn of grass.

Gloucestershire's dominance was short-lived, however. Ashwell Prince and Katich, both of them batsmen with techniques that have been tempered in the cauldron of Test cricket, added 64 for the fourth wicket before Prince, on 26, opted to follow a wide delivery from Liam Norwell in the second over after lunch and edged a catch to wicketkeeper Gareth Roderick.

This was a scarcely deserved reward for Norwell, a seamer whose run-up is an entertainment in itself. The 21-year-old from Bournemouth veers to the right and then to the left as he makes his way to the crease, rather in the manner of a drunk jogging enthusiastically but uncertainly to the bar and needing to avoid a large wastepaper bin and a hat-stand as he does so.

In the event neither Norwell nor any other Gloucestershire bowler enjoyed further success after Prince's departure. Instead, Steven Croft, who made an unbeaten century against Hampshire last week, batted with all the confidence such an innings engenders in hitting an unbeaten 43 off 63 balls, an effort which included half a dozen crisp boundaries and a straight six off Ed Young.

As a result of Katich and Croft's calculated aggression Lancashire will go into the second day of this game quietly confident of reaching 300 in their first innings. That should be a formidable total on a wicket which looks likely to help the spinners perhaps enough to stymie Gloucestershire's efforts to record only their second first-class victory on this ground in 11 attempts.

The first, for the record, came in 1889 when E M Grace's 27 not out proved decisive in a match where 37 wickets fell while only 351 runs were scored. No one is offering a generous wager that batting will be substantially easier on Saturday afternoon in the current contest.