County Cricket: Ace Prince turns the tide for Red Rose

First published in Sport

Centurion Ashwell Prince and Steven Croft underpinned a commanding display with the bat as Lancashire bossed the opening day of their County Championship Division One match against Middlesex at Liverpool.

Prince and Croft shared a grafting fourth-wicket stand of 176 inside 61 overs to help their side recover from 55-3 during the morning session to close the day on 276-4 from 96 overs.

Prince, who notched his 32nd hundred in first-class cricket and his third in the Championship for Lancashire after spells in 2009 and 2010, finished the day unbeaten on 121 off 224 balls while Croft added 78 off 195.

Boosted by the inclusion of captain Glen Chapple after the Earby ace was given the all-clear to play following a left side injury, Lancashire built on Saturday’s rearguard effort with the bat against Warwickshire when they avoided a fourth defeat in six matches.

Chapple and coach Peter Moores have spoken about the need for their side to build bigger partnerships and the pair provided a timely example as winless Lancashire passed 200 for only the fourth time in 11 innings.

Tim Murtagh, with 2-48 from 20 overs, Gareth Berg and a run-out accounted for the loss of three wickets for 19 runs in six overs as the Red Rose slipped from 36-0 at the end of the 18th over.

Paul Horton, who scored his first Championship hundred in two years at Edgbaston, was the first to go when he was run out by Joe Denly’s direct hit at the striker’s end from cover.

Karl Brown was caught behind by former Haslingden wicketkeeper John Simpson off Murtagh in the next over before Stephen Moore fell to Berg’s medium pace in the 24th.

Moore had a hand in Horton’s run out and was dropped on 20 by Dawid Malan in the slips off Berg. But he did not survive a top-edged pull off Berg as Eoin Morgan completed the catch at long-leg.

Prince and Croft, in particular, were in patient mood on a slow pitch with few demons.

Although Croft only hit one four in notching his third-half century of the season off 131 balls just after tea – 21 balls slower than Prince had done during the afternoon – he swept off-spinner Ollie Rayner over the ropes for six.

While the Middlesex attack were largely tidy, a few lbw appeals aside, they rarely threatened after their three-wicket burst until the last 45 minutes of play when Chris Rogers called for the second new ball at the start of the 85th over.

And it was a decision that reaped an immediate reward as Murtagh had Croft caught behind as he prodded forward to the first ball, leaving the score at 231-4.

Prince had brought up three figures off 206 balls with eight fours. He will resume day two this morning with Luke Procter (15 not out) for company.

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