Cross lifts up Lancashire again
Lancashire 310 and 239 for 7 (Cross 64, Prince 64) lead Gloucestershire 222 (Gidman 110) by 327 runs
Many more days like this and county cricket runs the risk of getting some rather decent publicity. In near perfect weather and on a good wicket Lancashire and Gloucestershire's cricketers tussled for advantage in a game which neither side never completely bossed until the last hour of play.
By then Glen Chapple's batsmen were scoring more or less as they pleased against a tiring attack that was missing the left-arm spin of Ed Young, who has a wrist injury. At the close Lancashire's lead was 327 runs and only some daft, ultra-cautious declaration will prevent them having a chance to force their third Championship win of the season on the final day.
Perhaps the cricketer who personifies the search for hard-won advantage which this match has been all about is Gareth Cross. The Lancashire wicketkeeper-batsman made a hundred in his side's last game against Hampshire but that game was as dead as last month's Radio Times for a good proportion of his innings. More valuable was Cross's 30 against Glamorgan or his 45 against Essex, both knocks which contributed important runs to eventual wins.
On Friday, Cross signed up to do some more heavy lifting and this was all the more laudable given that he had been smacked in the mouth by the ball when keeping wicket in the morning session. Coming to the crease with Lancashire on 62 for 5, an advantage of a mere 150, and having lost five prime wickets to the Gloucestershire seam trio of Craig Miles, Liam Norwell and Graeme McCarter, Cross fought alongside Ashwell Prince - another cricketer who savours trench warfare - to build a potentially match-winning lead.
Their 85-run stand had gone a long way towards achieving that goal when Prince chipped Benny Howell to Norwell at mid-off, but Cross then increased the tempo of the innings with Wayne White in some style. The pair added 67 in 12 overs before Cross was caught in the deep for 64 off the persevering Norwell. White completed his first fifty for Lancashire off 47 balls three overs before the close, but he would be the first to admit that Prince and Cross had earned him his licence to attack.
"It was good to spend some time in the middle and continue from Hampshire," Cross said. "I did a bit of work in the indoor nets in the winter on occupying the crease and, while I can play the shots, it's also more risky to do that so I'm just trying to play to my ability. I've felt in good form all year and it's nice to be making a contribution. If Ashwell or I had got out, we'd have been in trouble but he's a calming influence and we played well, I think."
Yet each session of this day's play produced players from each side whose qualities could be applauded by the good-sized crowd. In the morning Alex Gidman and Simon Kerrigan dominated proceedings, the Gloucestershire batsman completing his first Championship century of the season and the Lancashire spinner, bowling unchanged from the River End to take 5 for 40 in 14.2 overs.
Indeed, at times the play constituted something of a duel befitting d'Artagnan et al, Gidman's boundaries - he also hit Kerrigan and Kyle Hogg for sixes - being countered by the spinner's wickets. Lancashire probably wanted something more than the 88-run first -innings lead they eventually gained whereas Gloucestershire entertained hopes of whittling the advantage down to less than 50. Both teams had to settle for less than their ideal; it made for splendid cricket.
Gidman scored his century off 170 balls, hitting eight fours and two sixes in the process. On the point of lunch, he was caught by White at deep square leg off Kerrigan for 110. The large Liverpool crowd applauded him generously; his innings had determined the strength of Gloucestershire's position. For his part Kerrigan finished with 5 for 68 in the innings and there is every chance he will add a few more on the final day of this game. If so, the name of Gareth Cross may be to the fore once again.