Prince and Croft carry Lancashire
Lancashire 317 for 9 v Kent
An accomplished century by Ashwell Prince and a fifth successive Championship fifty from Steven Croft ensured that Lancashire held the slightest of advantages after the first day of the County Championship Division One match at Old Trafford.
Coming together with their side poorly placed on 86 for 4, the pair put on 144 for the fifth wicket in 42 overs. By the close, though, Lancashire had subsided to 317 for nine, still an acceptable position for home supporters after a morning in which all the batsmen had been discomfited by the bounce and movement of Kent's new-ball pair of Makhaya Ntini and Amjad Khan.
The home side's position would have been considerably stronger had Prince not been run out by a direct hit from deep mid-wicket fielder Joe Denly when he had made 115. This, however, will have come as some small relief for the Kent fielder, who had dropped the South African at point when he had made only 18.
For his part, Croft shrugged off any blame for the run-out and seemed set for a century when he was caught by first slip James Hockley off Darren Stevens for 93 in the penultimate over of the day. Since Prince's departure he had watched as three batsmen had been dismissed, two of them in the space of five Stevens deliveries in the previous over.
Lancashire's progress to three bonus points in the evening sunshine was in sharp contrast to a morning session in which only Prince had made batting look at all straightforward, and even he needed Denly's error in order to be able to enjoy the friendlier conditions in the afternoon.
Despite pulling Khan for a six into the pavilion off the delivery before his let-off, Prince clearly understood that watchful resistance was the key to success in the 28 overs before the interval. He had seen both Lancashire openers bowled playing loosely at the Kent seamers, and he watched from the other end as Paul Horton lost his off stump when a Stevens delivery kept low and defeated his defensive push.
Lancashire's fortunes reached their lowest ebb five overs after lunch when Mark Chilton was beaten by Ntini's bounce and edged to Martin van Jaarsveld at second slip. For the rest of the afternoon session Prince and Croft batted with increasing assurance as the pitch eased and the pair had taken their stand to 92 at tea.
Both batsmen had their alarms, Prince edging his former team-mate Ntini over the slips and Croft surviving an impassioned lbw shout from the same bowler. Yet the balance of the early stages of this contest clearly shifted as Kent's support bowlers initially failed to match the incision achieved by their new-ball pair.
Stevens, though, finished with four for 42, a fitting reward for his accuracy and persistence. Ntini, fresh from playing no games at all for Chennai Super Kings in the 2010 Indian Premier League, extracted plenty of early life from the Old Trafford wicket and was unlucky not to enjoy more success.