Confident Croft keeps Somerset at bay
Lancashire 292 and 221 for 6 drew with Somerset 383
Steven Croft's instinct to attack has not always served Lancashire's best interests and there was a moment here when even the knowledge that he was his side's last line of defence was not enough to curb his enthusiasm. Tea was half an hour away, Lancashire had just lost their sixth second-innings wicket with their lead only 54. One mistake by the 25-year-old allrounder and Lancashire's tail would have been exposed to a Somerset attack with their tails up.
There must have been hearts in mouths on the Lancashire balcony, then, when Mike Munday, the Somerset legspinner, fed Croft a tempting full toss and the right-hander launched it ambitiously towards the leg-side boundary. For a moment the fielder at deep midwicket eyed the shot eagerly, but to Lancashire's relief it cleared him and the boundary.
Otherwise, Croft did virtually everything right and when Somerset conceded, after spending an hour after tea trying for a seventh wicket and getting nowhere even with the new ball, that time had run out to force a result, it was to Croft's three hours at the crease that Lancashire owed their survival.
His unbeaten 66, with nine fours as well as that six, had steered Lancashire to a lead of 130, with four wickets still standing, at which point Marcus Trescothick, the Somerset captain, decided that playing out the final hour would have been a pointless exercise.
And thereby ended an unexpectedly absorbing final day to a match that was robbed of 83 overs by the weather, a day which had begun with Lancashire plunged into trouble by some fine bowling by the under-rated Alfonso Thomas, who took three wickets in the morning session and another just after lunch to encourage Somerset's belief that they might just pull off a first win of the season.
Thomas, the South African allrounder, varied his length to good effect, keeping Lancashire's batsmen on their toes with some balls aggressively dropped in short and then surprising one or two with fuller balls that swung.
Lancashire negotiated the first 30 minutes or so without alarm but when Trescothick, using his bowlers intelligently, replaced Damien Wright with Thomas at the Stretford End he was rewarded with a wicket first ball as Thomas took out Luke Sutton's middle stump.
Trescothick gave Thomas the Statham End for his second spell and he enjoyed more success, nipping one back off the pitch to bowl Paul Horton. What was still a mere setback for Lancashire began to look more worrying as Thomas then had Stephen Moore bowled off a bottom edge and they could have been four down at lunch had Trescothick, diving to his left at first slip, not dropped Ashwell Prince, again off Thomas's bowling.
The miss cost nothing, as it happened. Immediately after the resumption, Thomas jammed in a short delivery to Prince that his his fellow South African tried to avoid but could not, gloving a catch to the wicketkeeper as he swayed back.
With that, in effect, Lancashire were 9 for 4. Thomas took his sweater with figures of 4 for 24 from 14 overs but there was more trouble for Lancashire when Trescothick introduced Munday's leg-spin at the Stretford End, the move bringing an instant dividend as the captain himself holding a comfortable catch at slip as Mark Chilton tried loosely to despatch Monday's first ball.
Croft lost one source of potential assistance when Kyle Hogg steered Damien Wright lazily into the hands of the wider of two gullys but, with Glen Chapple applying his experience to a dogged rearguard at the other end, Croft assuredly defended his own. Even with the new ball, Somerset could make no more inroads.