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Alex Winter in Bristol
September 18, 2013
Lancashire 292 for 7 (Procter 106, Gidman 4-58) v Gloucestershire
"Shot Procy," came the cry from beyond the boundary. A phrase once so common in Gloucestershire but not heard since 1981 was revived on the second day at Bristol. But the accent was no Westcountry burr. A new Procy was making runs at Nevil Road.
Lancashire will hope Luke Procter goes on to enjoy as much success as Mike Procter did for Gloucestershire in the 1970s; even half as much. A maiden century in any format was a point from which to build from after two lean seasons. He helped his side pick up two of the 12 points they require to make certain of the Division Two title.
He was forced to work hard and at no stage looked particularly comfortable - Gloucestershire to their credit did not allow him to settle - especially when edging Will Gidman wide of third slip to take him into the 90s and past his previous first-class best score, 89 against Sussex in 2011. But a hurried single wide of mid-off ensured he was rewarded with a century in 208 balls including 13 fours.
Procter's strokes reflect his height - he is a small man at 5'11". They are punchy and serve him well in certain areas - the pull and the straight drive which he played superbly all day. Two blazing strokes came early on. Craig Miles bowled perfectly acceptable straight deliveries just slightly full of a good length; Procter punched them down the ground with the power of a Floyd Mayweather blow but without the flowing style. Another off Benny Howell's wobbly seamers took him to fifty in 115 balls.
But a lack of rhythm to his strokes kept the bowlers interested all day and throughout his innings there were half-chances and nervy moments, most of them to the redoubtable Gidman who, not for the first time this season, was Gloucestershire's main weapon. There was a top-edged cut over the slips, a mistimed pull that was chipped into the on-side and landed just short of midwicket and numerous cries for lbw and caught behind, none of which the umpires had an ear for.
Eventually Peter Willey brought his finger out of his pocket to end Procter's stay, as Gidman shuffled one past his push into the leg side with the second new ball. It ended a partnership of 159 with Tom Smith, four short of the record fifth-wicket stand for Lancashire against Gloucestershire. Nevertheless it had given them a strong position in the match having looked shaky at 105 for 4.
Like on the first day - which amounted to only 10 overs - Gidman struck early, removing Karl Brown via a superb low catch by wicketkeeper Gareth Roderick. Luis Reece also fell in the morning session, trying to flick Miles to leg and missing. It ended Reece's bid to join Ernest Tyldesley as the record-holder for most fifties in succession for Lancashire. Not one of Reece's innings has yet to be converted into a century.
But Lancashire notched up two batting points through the stand of 159 by Smith and Procter. Progress was steady, at 2.71 runs per over, and reflected how well Gloucestershire had contained them. A major criticism of their attack has been a poor economy rate, especially last season, but this year a tighter effort has kept them in matches for longer and two games in particular - against Lancashire at Liverpool and Essex at Bristol - may not have been drawn had Gloucestershire not made the opposition bat longer for their runs.
They are a young, developing attack and Matt Taylor, a 19-year-old billed as the new Mike Smith, perhaps without the pace, got his career underway when he had Alec Davies caught behind for his maiden first-class wicket.
But none of the attack did much to trouble Smith, who was more flowing than Procter; a taller man whose reach enables a broader range of strokes, particularly through the covers where Smith's stride got him further up the wicket and in a better position whereas Procter often edged such attempts.
Smith was also more comfortable in scoring off his namesake, Gloucestershire's on-loan left-arm spinner. For a time the spectators were able to chuckle at the battle between Tom Smith and Tom Smith. The batsman won the duel and twice played well-timed reverse sweeps, again capitalising on his reach. He closed in sight of his first century of the season.
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