Foreign talent to the fore as Prince, Petersen prosper
Lancashire 348 for 4 (Prince 156*, Petersen 113, Derbyshire 335 for 9 (Godleman 75, Slater 69, Amla 69, Bailey 3-73) v
One of the most famous photographs in Lancashire's recent history captures the moment when the 2011 County Championship was won. It shows two graduates of the Old Trafford's Academy, Karl Brown and Steven Croft, embracing on the Taunton square in the moment of triumph.
But it is already clear that if the Division Two title is to be won this year, the achievement will not be solely, or even largely, the work of homegrown talent. Some diehards object to this. Then again, if supporters are treated to deeply professional batsmanship of the type exhibited by Ashwell Prince and Alviro Petersen in their record breaking 258-run third-wicket stand on the second day of this game at Southport, they may not mind if their title-winners come from Port Elizabeth rather than Preston.
Prince joined Petersen at the crease at 12.10pm just after Karl Brown had been caught at the wicket playing a rather limp shot to the Derbyshire seamer Tom Taylor. Lancashire were 18 for 2, having lost Paul Horton three overs previously when the in-form opener was beaten by a good ball from Mark Footitt and nicked a catch to Chesney Hughes.
The home side's predicament was compounded by the 28 runs Mark Critchley had carved and clipped through the first half-hour of the day in making 41. Derbyshire's total of 370 looked a decent effort, especially on a wicket that is gradually taking more spin. With both of Steven Croft's openers back in the hutch, it looked even bigger.
But Petersen and Prince are used to such apparent crises and the next five hours or so belonged to them. First they neutralised the threat of the new ball; then they attacked judiciously, taking especially heavy toll of Derbyshire's three spinners, David Wainwright, Scott Elstone and Critchley.
Lancashire were 69 for 2 at lunch with the immediate emergency averted. By tea the home side had got to 210 without further loss and the afternoon had been bejewelled with excellent batting. At times it looked a little like a Staff v Boys game with the masters intent on brutal revenge. Then again, since Prince is 38 years old and Matt Critchley is 18, the comparison is not absurd. So the master hit the apprentice for a big six and a four, forcing Billy Godleman to bring back Wainwright.
Petersen then straight drove the offspinner to bring up his fifty off 82 balls, his compatriot having reached the same mark off 18 balls fewer. Prince then played a sublime shot, cover driving one of Shiv Thakor's medium pacers to the Late Cut bar boundary; Godleman trotted after the ball but it was more an act of obeisance than pursuit.
Prince cut Footitt twice in the same over, first square, then late, both for four. So it continued, deep into the afternoon. The crowd felt the warmth of the sun more fully and one could sense their pleasure. The bars did good business and there was a babble of happiness
At tea, Prince was unbeaten on 99 and reached his century immediately after the resumption. It had taken 138 balls and had included 15 fours and a six. Petersen reached the same landmark soon afterwards off 18 more balls, not that it mattered a brass bean. Indeed, it seemed that the pair were intent on building something to send the statisticians into major raptures when, having made 113, Petersen was beautifully pouched by Harvey Hosein, standing up to the stumps off the ever willing Taylor. The stand had established a new record for first-class matches on the ground and for Championship games between Lancashire and Derbyshire.
"With them getting over 300 runs we were under pressure so Ashwell and I knew we had to get a partnership together," Petersen said. "We communicated, we knew which bowlers to put under pressure and which areas to score in. We have played a lot of cricket together and we understand each other. It all came together and, more importantly, it puts the team in a good position.
"Ashwell is playing good cricket. It is his last season and sometimes that means there is no pressure on you and you can just go out and express yourself. He is like a good red wine, the older he gets the better he gets."
Still the entertainment was not at an end. Steven Croft came in and hit both Wainwright and Critchley for sixes so huge and powerful that they severed tree branches and sent them tumbling onto the railway line and a Harrod Drive garden. Taylor responded by having Croft leg before for 22 but the batsman seemed to think he had hit the ball. A dressing room door slammed as the Lancashire skipper continued his War on Wood.
Prince and Alex Davies guided their team to the close, thus preparing the ground for a further assault. One barely noticed that Davies, all cuts and punches, had made 28 not out when the players came into the pavilion. Prince was 156 not out, his runs made off 229 balls.
Godleman was quietly spoken and generous at the end of what had been a difficult day for him and his bowlers. "I had a few more decisions to make today but I really enjoyed the experience," he said
"We did well to take a couple of wickets with the new ball and then I think we saw two fine hundreds from two outstanding international players. They put the bad ball away and the way they rotated the strike on a pitch which is starting to turn a little more was high quality."
Yes, it was, you know. These are the days we wait for through the lukewarm soup of an English winter.