Lancashire have taken to Division One cricket like a duck to water on their return to the top flight. A commanding victory over Nottinghamshire could have been seen as a flash-in-the-pan, maybe a one-off.
Well on Day One of their clash against Somerset, another side many view as fellow relegation candidates, Lancashire showed again their potential to more than hold their own at county cricket’s top table. A 125-run partnership between Alviro Petersen and captain Steven Croft put the Red Rose in control at Taunton and in a position to push for back-to-back wins.
Croft chose to contest a toss and proceeded to win it and bat first. It was a pitch that looked flat and so it proved as the visitors negotiated the Somerset seamers early burst without any concern at all. The loss of both openers either side of lunch left the visitors stumbling a little at 87-2 but they seized control in the afternoon.
Petersen steadied the ship and, alongside his captain, began to accelerate the score as the day wore on, passing the century stand as the pair punished Somerset’s weary bowlers on an ideal batting wicket.
Petersen fell but Croft and Alex Davies batted to the close. Lancashire will return tomorrow on 295-4, looking to bat deep into the afternoon before unleashing their impressive bowling unit on Somerset’s batsmen.
Having won the toss, openers Haseeb Hameed and Karl Brown set about posting a big first innings total for Lancashire. The pitch was flat but Somerset bowled economically first up, restricting the Red Rose to just six runs from the first five overs.
Boundaries began to flow more frequently and the opening pair passed 50 in the 19th over with both looking comfortable on 26*.
Somerset skipper Chris Rogers, playing his 300th first class game, turned to left-arm spinner Jack Leach and soon got his reward. 19-year-old Hameed fell for 29 as he attempted to drive Leach through the covers but was well caught by a diving Tom Abell to leave Lancashire 56-1 after 23.3 overs.
Luke Procter joined Brown in the middle and Somerset continued to bowl tightly and offer little to the visiting batsmen. Leach bowled nine overs for 1-8 before lunch but Lancashire made it through to the interval without any further losses and walked off at 77-1 with Brown looking strong on 43*.
But he managed to add just four runs to his total after the break as Leach had his second. Brown was trapped lbw for 47 and Lancashire were wobbling a little at 87-2 in the 38th over.
Petersen joined Procter at the crease and the pair pushed the total past the 100 mark in the 41st over, before the hosts struck again. Tim Groenewald, looking to build on his five-fer against Surrey last time out, trapped Procter in front for 26 with Lancashire 125-3.
Petersen though was looking comfortable at a ground he knows well having only left Somerset in 2014, and was playing nicely on his first return to Taunton.
He moved swiftly on to 14 with a lofted six down the ground off Leach and alongside skipper Croft, put on a 50 partnership for the fifth wicket just after tea to move Lancashire back into control at 175-3.
And Petersen’s personal milestone came up in the next over, as he brought up a classy half-century from 95 balls featuring five fours and that one six.
The pair were looking set to put Lancashire in a commanding position at the end of day one. Croft took the attack to Leach, lofting him for two big sixes down the ground in quick succession, before Petersen brought up the century stand with a six over point off Jamie Overton.
Croft brought up his 50 from 89 balls, having struck three fours as well as the two sixes and at the end of the 80th over, Lancashire were in control at 241-3 and Rogers was only too happy to take the new ball on offer.
It brought joy for the Somerset bowlers soon after when Craig Overton got one through the defences of Petersen and had him out lbw for a superb 83 from 140 balls, breaking the 125-run stand with Croft.
Davies joined Croft and batted to the close making a 41-ball 32 and will return tomorrow alongside his captain who will resume on 71*. Having won a crucial toss, Lancashire had made the most of their advantage to take charge of the game heading into day two at Taunton.