Steven Croft’s second successive century and some devastating new-ball bowling helped title-chasing Lancashire seize control of their LV= County Championship match against Worcestershire on their first appearance in Blackpool for four years.
Returning to his home club, Croft made 107 off 111 balls at Stanley Park as Glen Chapple’s batsmen scored 282 in their first innings. That total looked formidable as Worcestershire slumped to 21-5 before Aneesh Kapil and Gareth Andrew guided their side to 77 without further loss at the close.
In a dramatic last 90 minutes, Chapple took three wickets and Kyle Hogg two more as the visitors’ top order had no answer to late swing and sharp movement. Matt Pardoe, Vikram Solanki and Alexei Kervezee all fell to slip catches, while Moeen Ali was lbw first ball and skipper Daryl Mitchell played on.
But the bowlers’ heroics could not overshadow local hero Croft, who had failed with the bat on both this season’s guest appearances for Blackpool CC on this ground, including a duck last time out against Lancaster on July 30.
The 26-year-old came to the wicket at 62-3 and soon lost Paul Horton before adding 87 with Farveez Maharoof, who made 29, and 90 in under 14 overs with Gareth Cross.
Croft reached his 50 in 60 balls and then hit four big sixes as he reached his century off only 38 further deliveries.
The Worcestershire spinners came in for rough treatment, Ali being dispatched for two leg-side sixes and Shaaiq Choudhry conceding 25 roff two overs as Croft reached his ton with a six over long on.
Mitchell’s team were left to rue Croft’s escape on 33, when the sun’s reflection off a window prevented substitute fielder Nick Harrison even getting a hand to a straightforward chance at long leg off Alan Richardson.
Worcestershire eventually got their man when Croft fended a vicious Kapil delivery straight to Mitchell at slip and that wicket sparked a collapse as Lancashire lost their last five wickets for 26 runs in just 53 balls. Richard Jones finished with 3-62 and Andrew 3-47.
The afternoon dramas were in sharp contrast to a tough morning session in which Mitchell’s bowlers had made reasonable use of winning the toss to reduce Lancashire to 97-4.
On a wicket offering plenty of early help, Horton made a watchful 47 but was fourth out ten minutes before lunch when he edged Ali to Mitchell at slip.
The Worcestershire seamers controlled the rest of the session, Jones taking two wickets and Richardson the other as the Red Rose top order sought to see off the new ball.