Lancashire v Nottinghamshire, County Championship, 2nd day June 7, 2008

Croft century drives Lancashire

John Ward at Old Trafford

Nottinghamshire 148 for 2 (Wagh 67*) trail Lancashire 384 (Croft 122, Horton 64, du Plessis 55, Sutcliffe 50) by 236 runs

Steven Croft celebrates his maiden first-class hundred © PA Sports
The match is well balanced at Old Trafford after two days, although a draw is an increasingly strong possibility as only six wickets fell on both days. Nottinghamshire replied strongly and positively to Lancashire's first-innings total of 384, which was boosted by a determined century from Steven Croft, closing on 148 for 2.

Resuming on 260 for 5, Lancashire's priority was clearly to keep on amassing runs, which they did without too much concern about how long it took. This tied in well with Croft's aim of reaching his maiden first-class century. He settled in firmly with Luke Sutton, his overnight partner, who started the day with a superb cover drive to the boundary off Charlie Shreck.

Croft was working away with dedication, and finally an on-drive for four off Shreck brought him the three figures he had narrowly missed at Headingley last week. It came off 197 balls and contained few memorable strokes, but a great deal of hard work and dedication.

This valuable partnership was only broken by a run-out, as the energetic Sutton sought a fourth run off a hit to the distant midwicket boundary, and was stranded in mid pitch thanks to good work out there from Matthew Wood. He made 43, rather slowly but valuably, and Lancashire were 336 for 6.

Croft did not change his approach after reaching his hundred, continuing to accumulate steadily, until he was finally caught at the wicket for 122, driving at Graeme Swann. In all he faced 256 balls and hit 14 fours. This was the pattern of the Lancashire innings, which plodded on at less than three an over. The only batsmen who actually exceeded this rate were Dominic Cork (18) and Sajid Mahmood (10) in their brief innings. This approach brought them a very handy total, but it did use up a day and a half.

Swann was the most successful of the Nottinghamshire bowlers, taking 3 for 78, with two wickets to both Shreck and Franks. Darren Patterson, wicketless, and Mark Ealham, with just one wicket, deserved better for their fine efforts, but luck did not go their way.

Could Lancashire's rather slow scoring be excused by a pitch that did not allow a good run rate? Nottinghamshire did not think so, as they scored their runs at about four an over for most of their truncated innings. They did begin cautiously, but the bowlers did not find much assistance from the conditions and provided width at times, and the runs began to flow.

Wood fell early for 10, pushing forward to Mahmood and being caught at the wicket, while his opening partner, Will Jefferson, was just regaining confidence and showing his range of strokes when a loose slash off Oliver Newby to gully cut him off for 32. Nottinghamshire were 60 for 2 and the innings was in the balance.

Adam Voges, however, joined Mark Wagh and the two shared a fluent partnership of 88, unbroken by the close. Croft, with his little medium-pacers, was the only bowler to put a brake on the scoring. To the annoyance of the crowd, the batsmen chose to take the bad light when the umpires offered it to them, despite being well set.

Nottinghamshire do not always make pleasant opponents these days, and there was a distasteful incident during the morning when Shreck deliberately stood in Sutton's way as the latter went for a quick single, almost forcing the batsman to barge him as he ran through. The umpires stepped in and spoke to the bowler and captain, and the matter may well be taken further. But this incident could have been avoided if the umpires, especially Tim Robinson who was at Shreck's end, had stepped in earlier with one or two quiet words.

Only a few minutes earlier Shreck had given Sutton some verbals, and it was not simply a case of the bowler having a bad day or getting out of bed the wrong side, as he had also shown such gratuitous aggression on the first day, apparently overlooked by the umpires then. He was not the only Nottinghamshire offender, and it was unfortunate that the umpires waited until an actual incident took place rather than reckoning that prevention was better than cure.