Ashwell Prince (106) scored his third century in as many innings against Kent as he helped Lancashire to reach 317/5 at the end of the first day at Emirates Old Trafford.
Prince and Paul Horton (71) added 98 runs for the third wicket after Matt Coles (3/67) claimed successive wickets with his fourth and fifth balls of the day, accounting for Luis Reece and Alviro Petersen inside the first hour.
The South-African then formed sturdy partnerships with Steven Croft (37) and Alex Davies (47*), both worth 75 runs, as the hosts ended the day with a strong platform.
Lancashire were the only side in Division Two to win the toss and bat first but they fought hard inside the first hour as they navigated a tricky spell against Kent, who were looking to bounce back from their five-wicket defeat to Essex last week.
Horton and Reece had applied themselves well for the first 50 minutes of the day but their efforts were marginalised when the introduction of Coles dealt the Red Rose a double blow. The Kent all-rounder, who had a brief spell at Hampshire before returning to Canterbury, struck with only his fourth ball of the day forcing Reece into an edge which landed safely in the hands of Darren Stevens at second slip, as the Lancashire opener departed for 18.
Fresh off the back of a debut hundred against Derbyshire, Alviro Petersen was aiming to continue Lancashire’s positive start, but the South-African strangled an edge down the leg side which was well taken by Sam Billings as Lancashire stumbled to 38/2, with Coles putting a severe dent in their progress.
Horton and Prince formed a sturdy partnership – as they did the last time these two batted together against Kent at Canterbury, when the pair added 167 runs. Although their partnership did not accumulate as many runs on this occasion, it was a vital stand to help the hosts recover from a potentially difficult position.
Their partnership came in two halves; the first before lunch where they added 43 runs in sedate fashion, but after the interval the run rate increased significantly, as the decision of batting first was eventually vindicated.
Horton had meandered his way to 33 at lunch with Lancashire edging their way towards 81/2 and the opener, who had been struggling for form with the bat, doubled his score; scoring 34 runs in as many balls after lunch, adding seven fours to accelerate Lancashire’s progression.
It took Horton just 15 minutes to double his score after the break, but Adam Riley (1/73) struck with his first ball in the afternoon session to break Horton’s partnership with Prince two runs shy of the hundred-run mark. Horton had reached his 47th first-class fifty in 114 balls with seven fours, before Riley forced him to play at a wide one and a fine knick was followed by a buoyant celebration from the young off-spinner, who claimed 48 Championship wickets for Kent last season.
Lancashire’s innings was well and truly back on track with that partnership and another valuable stand between Prince and stand-in captain Croft worth 75 runs enhanced Lancashire’s already commanding position before tea.
As was the case with Horton, Prince looked to score positively as he and Croft added 51 runs in just 80 balls in the afternoon session, as their partnership helped Lancashire to reach their first batting point at Old Trafford this season.
Prince moved to an 85-ball half-century with five fours, reaching this milestone with a straight six off Riley, as he continued his good form against Kent from the 2013 season. The last time the South-African played against Kent he scored centuries in both innings and it was his contribution which spearheaded Lancashire’s progression on the first day.
Rob Key’s inspired captaincy had given Kent crucial breakthroughs earlier in the day, but it was the decision of Coles to tempt Croft into playing at a short delivery which eventually ended Croft and Prince’s partnership.
Croft – playing as captain due to an absent Tom Smith who has a back injury – had played an attractive innings, but very much fell for the ploy set by Coles, who claimed his third wicket when Riley took a good catch at long leg to remove Croft for 37, with the score at 211/4.
Lancashire formed another good partnership when Davies came to the crease, as the wicketkeeper made another solid contribution after making his highest first-class score of 89 against Derbyshire in the first match of the season.
The hosts continue to frustrate Kent in the final session of the day, adding 50 runs in 79 balls, further increasing their lead in the Manchester sunshine.
Prince found another straight six off Riley as he approached his eleventh hundred for Lancashire and eventually reached a 157-ball century, his eleventh for the Red Rose as he guided the hosts to a second batting point.
The last time Prince made a century at Old Trafford, against Durham last season, he was removed for 106 and this was the case once again when he played the ball straight to substitute fielder, Charlie Hartley, rewarding Mitchell Claydon (1/67) for his efforts with the ball.
This wicket introduced Jordan Clark, who made his first-class debut for Lancashire in the absence of club captain Smith and the Cumbrian-born all-rounder made a fortuitous start when he was dropped by Billings on 14.
He closed on 16 not out although the day ended in controversial circumstances when Davies edged to gully and the ball was judged to have not carried, much to the disgust of Key and the rest of the Kent players who were left dejected by an unbeaten stand worth 41 runs between Davies and Clark.