Prince earns Lancashire a rare lead
Durham 340 and 59 for 1 trail Lancashire 421 (Prince 106, Hastings 4-78) by 22 runs
Like Frank Watson and Harry Pilling from earlier eras in Lancashire's history, Ashwell Prince's skills are not those to delight cricket's aesthete. But who cares? It does nothing to limit his effectiveness or reduce his popularity. Home supporters huddled under The Point on a windy, damp Sunday at Old Trafford could not claim Prince as one of their own - he was born in Port Elizabeth rather than Warrington's Watson or Ashton-under-Lyne's Pilling - but they could admire his phlegmatic approach, his hard-wired technique, his undimmable courage.
Those strengths were on view again on the third day of the game against Durham as Prince piloted his team to a lead of 81 with his third Championship century of the season. The value of that 204-ball effort can be gauged a little by the fact that it took Lancashire to only their third first-innings lead of the season in 13 matches.
Rather more useful, though, was the opportunity it created for slow left-armer Simon Kerrigan to bowl into the rough which is under the noses of the five left-handers among Durham's top seven batsmen. In his seven overs on Sunday evening Kerrigan removed only Mark Stoneman, caught at short leg by Steven Croft for 29, but there was sufficient bounce and turn to encourage the Lancashire spinner going into the final three sessions of this game when even a Durham victory cannot be ruled out on what is more or less a seventh-day pitch.
Prince's century on Sunday was all the more admirable given that he had begun his innings seven times, such was the frequency of the showers which gusted across Old Trafford from the west and sent the cricketers scampering back to the warmth and isotonic security of the changing room. Indeed, the performances of all the players were admirable this wind-blown Sunday when even the batsmen found it tough to find rhythm or balance.
Play was interrupted three times in the first session and thrice also in the afternoon with some of the rain gusts so brief that the cricketers had no sooner scurried off than they had to return. In the morning's play Tom Smith hit eight boundaries, most of them sweetly-driven affairs off Scott Borthwick and played by a man for whom cricket has become a most agreeable pursuit this summer. Indeed, Smith outscored his partner more than two to one in making 44 and looked set for a seventh first-class fifty when he drove John Hastings to Calum MacLeod in the gully.
Having lost one free-scoring partner, Prince was no doubt content to acquire another in Stephen Parry, who made a career-best 37 off 55 balls against the county whose attack he once faced as a Lancashire opener in only his third first-class match back in 2009. By mid- afternoon successive 60-plus partnerships had given Lancashire a useful 40-run lead, but further progress was prevented by the torrential wind-driven showers which powered across Old Trafford.
Within a few moments or so the hover-cover was protecting the pitch but the placement of sheets on the rest of the square proved devilishly difficult. For several minutes the groundstaff struggled against the gales and rain like the men patrolling Barnegat in Walt Whitman's famous poem, the canvasses billowing around them as they strove to tame nature and were forced to wait until the elements tolerated such control.
When play resumed Prince reached his century with a pulled four off Borthwick but was bowled off the inside edge by Hastings in the next over. Glen Chapple and Tom Bailey then added a cheery 37 for the ninth wicket in half an hour but Hastings and Ben Stokes wrapped up the innings in four balls, the Australian completing a whole-hearted 28-over effort by having Bailey edge a lifting delivery to Mustard.
Hastings ended the innings with 4 for 78 while Borthwick sent down more overs in an innings - 49 for 158 runs - than any Durham bowler since 1998. Given the precision required to purvey leg-spin and the conditions in which the 24-year-old was required to do so, it was rather admirable that he went for a little more three runs an over. Like Prince, a cricketer 13 years his senior, Borthwick can therefore review his day with some pride, even if it is the South African 40th first-class century that captures the headlines.