Croft calls the shots for Lancashire
Steven Croft’s second successive century and some devastating new-ball bowling helped Lancashire seize almost complete control of their LV= County Championship match against Worcestershire at Blackpool.
Returning to his home club, Croft made 107 off 111 balls as the hosts posted 282 on the opening day.
That total looked formidable indeed as Worcestershire slumped to 21 for five before Aneesh Kapil and Gareth Andrew guided them to 77 without further loss by the close.
In a dramatic last 90 minutes of the day, Chapple took three wickets and Kyle Hogg two as the visitors’ top order had no answer to late swing and sharp movement off the Stanley Park wicket.
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.
The performance of the Lancashire seamers almost overshadowed the achievement of 26-year-old Croft, who came to the wicket with his side 62 for three.
He soon lost Paul Horton before adding 87 with Farveez Maharoof, who made 29, and 90 in under 14 overs for the sixth wicket wicket with Gareth Cross.
Croft dominated both stands, reaching his fifty off 60 balls and then hitting four big sixes as he reached his century off only 38 further deliveries.
The Worcestershire spinners came in for rough treatment, Moeen being dispatched for two leg-side sixes and Shaaiq Choudhry conceding 25 off two overs as Croft reached his hundred with a six over long-on.
Croft’s destruction of the bowling left Worcestershire deeply regretting the reprieve they gave him 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.
The Worcestershire attack eventually got their man when Croft fended a vicious Kapil delivery straight to Mitchell at slip, a wicket that sparked a collapse as Lancashire lost their last five wickets for 26 runs inside nine overs. Richard Jones finished with 3-62 and Andrew 3-45.
The afternoon’s rapid dramas were in sharp contrast to a tough first session in which Worcestershire’s seamers made good use of winning the toss.
Stephen Moore was bowled by Jones, Richardson had Karl Brown taken by Mitchell and Jones accounted for Tom Smith before Horton’s dismissal for a watchful 47 - caught by Mitchell at slip off Moeen - capped a profitable morning for Worcestershire.
Croft, and later Chapple and Hogg, ensured it was as good as it got.