Steven Croft century helps Lancashire to first County Championship win of season
Lancashire claimed their first win of the LV=Insurance County Championship season after they saw off a defiant Northamptonshire side by 206 runs at Emirates Old Trafford.
The hosts had gone into the final day needing seven wickets for victory but were made to work hard for their triumph thanks to the returning Luke Procter, who had batted for just a shade over six hours when he was the last man out for 93 with 13.3 overs left.
After wicketless opening spells from Saqib Mahmood and Tom Bailey, Lancashire turned to spin and Matt Parkinson duly obliged with just his second delivery as Ricardo Vaconcelos departed for 35 after his attempted reverse sweep only diverted the ball onto his stumps via a pad.
Adam Rossington was next to go, edging Luke Wood to Keaton Jennings at first slip for eight to leave the visitors 87 for five.
Matters became worse when umpire Mike Burns adjudged Saif Zaaib out lbw for four to a sharp turner from Parkinson which looked to be missing the stumps.
Through it all, Poulton’s former Lancashire all-rounder Procter was holding firm and he at last got some welcome assistance from Tom Taylor.
As Parkinson, Tom Hartley and Steven Croft all twirled away, the seventh wicket pair slowly but surely began to take the game deeper into the afternoon than many expected and Procter’s painstaking half-century eventually came off 188 balls.
When the breakthrough came it was from the unlikely figure of Rob Jones, whose part-time leg-breaks had brought just one First Class wicket before he looped one up outside off-stump and enticed Taylor out of his crease, with Alex Davies quickly whipping off the bails to remove the batsman for 13.
The 56 runs the pair put on in just over 36 overs gave Northants a glimmer, and when Procter was joined by another former Red Rose man in Nathan Buck, their hopes increased as they negotiated their way through the new ball and on to tea.
Nerves were jangling right up until 40 minutes beyond the interval, when Buck finally glanced one down the leg-side to Davies off the returning Wood for 20, who accounted for another ex-Lancashire player next ball as Simon Kerrigan’s stumps were uprooted by a vicious inswinging yorker.
It was Parkinson who had the final say when he had the unfortunate Procter caught bat and pad at backward short-leg by Croft to finish with three for 39 and match figures of 6 for 58, with Wood’s three for 30 the other highlight.
Croft’s unbeaten 103 on Saturday had established Lancashire’s winning position as the visitors were set a record fourth-innings target of 425 to win.
Blackpool’s Croft had steadied the ship in a seventh-wicket partnership of 62 with Luke Wood and proceeded to complete his 14th First Class century, and first since 2017, with a booming six off Buck.
Croft said: “It was a very pleasing day on a personal note and for the team. It’s my first century for a few years and I’ve been down the order a bit in four-day cricket, so it was nice to get an opportunity at the top and get some runs to go with it.
“I would have liked a lot more centuries and my conversion rate isn’t great, so I’ve gone a small way in improving that. It’s very sweet as it’s been a long winter and a few years coming.
“Dane (captain Vilas) and I work well together, and although I still want to contribute as a player hopefully I can give some valuable advice to the lads and pass on any wisdom I can. That’s my role and I’m happy to help if I can.”
Lancashire head coach Glen Chapple said: "We got into a good position in the game but as it often does here it became quite difficult to force the win as the pitch got quite tired but not uneven. The best thing I saw today was a massive effort from the lads to get over the line.
"The second session was the problem. They had a good partnership and Procter played really well and held us up. It tested our resolve and it's something you prepare for all winter to make sure you're up for challenges like that. The lads came through brilliantly."
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