Petersen's professionalism suits Lancashire's survival ambitions

Lancashire 422 for 9 (Petersen 155, Croft 58, Livingstone 57, Hameed 56) trail Somerset 553 for 6 dec (Trego 154*, Abell 135, Davies 86, Trescothick 60, Bailey 5-111) by 131 runs

The praise should not be faint if the achievement is substantial. Professional competence matters as much in sport as in any other occupation, even if sport is a sui generis branch of the entertainment industry. So Alviro Petersen's innings of 155 on this pitiless slab of Mancunian turf deserves all the credit which will be paid to it over the next day or so.

Presented with the task of helping Lancashire score 404 to avoid the possibility of being asked to follow on by Somerset, Petersen did more than his share of the hard work needed to achieve that objective. He was present at the wicket while 283 of those runs were added and had made over 37.5% of the 404 with his own bat when he inside-edged Tim Groenewald on to his pad and was caught by Marcus Trescothick at slip just after tea.

The handshakes Petersen received from at least four Somerset players when he was dismissed said something about the quality and value of his 255-ball innings and perhaps more about the players who congratulated him. Petersen's drives through cover, his cuts backward of square and his two straight sixes off Jack Leach, the second of which brought up his century, had denied Chris Rogers and his men at a vital stage of the season. His composure and Test experience had been put to good use in century partnerships, first with Liam Livingstone and then with Steven Croft, with whom he added 157, a stand which all but shut the victory door in Somerset's faces.

There was a brief flutter among home supporters when Croft was caught at slip in the over after Petersen's dismissal and again when the ailing Luke Procter was leg before to Craig Overton for 2 ten overs later, but Jordan Clark and Kyle Jarvis scored the 17 runs then needed to see Lancashire to 404. This made making Lewis Gregory's three late wickets no more than a statistical footnote although they were also as a reflection of the bowler's late efforts, aided, perhaps, by a bit of reverse swing.

Even if a weather forecast which would find a place in the Book of Ezekiel proves to be false, this game is likely to be very drawn indeed. Groundsmen are encouraged to produced four-day pitches but this rascal might last four public readings of Proust. The cricket played on it was therefore a little slow at times, as is often the case when one big score is followed by another. Certainly it drove some Somerset bowlers to distraction and Rogers' attack must have wondered what they had done to offend the game's gods when one decent leg before shout after another was turned down.

It was some reflection of Somerset's predicament when Rogers, himself, who had previously bowled 242 balls in his entire first-class career, sent down the over before tea. However, he could not add to his single first-class wicket, which is that of Stuart Broad, whom the Australian dismissed when he was playing for Northants and Broad for Leicestershire.

Yet Lancashire supporters, sitting in statuesque calm in the old pavilion enjoyed it all, as they had a full right to do, although someone observed that it might have enlivened the afternoon session if Los del Rio had blasted out from the Point and the cool dudes in the 1864 Suite had given everyone a few minutes of the macarena.

Instead of which, we had Petersen and Croft, the first batting with silky ease, the second with hard-arsed defiance, taking their team towards safety and at least putting to bed memories of their county's miserable surrender against Surrey last week. Faced with the accuracy of Leach, who has plainly outbowled Simon Kerrigan in this game, Lancashire fourth-wicket pair earned their money and saved their side embarrassment, if not worse.

All of this was important both in the context of the game and because it may have helped the development of that most promising cricketer, Liam Livingstone. Croft, for example, batted with immense professional craft, despite the fact that he had kept wicket and captained in Somerset's long innings. So the workhorse skipper has taken on about three jobs but may not have had to bat for very long on Friday if Livingstone, having added 37 to his overnight score, had not been caught at the wicket when playing a daft, front-foot paddle sweep to Leach.

Yet this was only the third or fourth of his dozy shot selections on the third morning. The 23-year-old was pleased to be selected for representative honours earlier this season and now he is batting up the order. This was his first half-century in eight innings. Livingstone is an outstanding young talent but he may reflect that it's not much good taking pride in being a Lion if you play shots that would shame a senescent okapi.

Lancashire 2nd innings Partnerships

1st87H HameedRP Jones
2nd9LS LivingstoneRP Jones
3rd117AN PetersenLS Livingstone
4th157AN PetersenSJ Croft
5th0SJ CroftLA Procter
6th17LA ProcterJ Clark
7th17J ClarkTE Bailey
8th10KM JarvisTE Bailey
9th0SC KerriganTE Bailey
10th8TE BaileyTJ Lester