Sometimes, one innings can change the entire shape of a match. On the second day at Old Trafford that innings was delivered by Lancashire’s Alviro Petersen, whose superb 105 handed the initiative back to his side after Surrey had clawed their way back into the contest.
The South African walked to the crease at 106-2, which on the face of it seems like a position of strength, especially given they were only replying to Surrey’s below-par 191. But Lancashire had been 99-1 and it became 115-3 soon after Petersen arrived at the crease, when opener Haseeb Hameed departed.
Lancashire’s run rate was less than impressive and with three quick wickets, Surrey had their tails up. With just 115 scored from 54.5 overs when Hameed went, the Red Rose needed someone to take the attack back to the bowlers and seize the initiative again.
Petersen did that superbly. After grafting to get going, he began to bat positively, belting Gareth Batty back down the ground for a big six and then striking three boundaries in the off spinners’ next over. He brought up a 50 stand with Steven Croft for the fifth wicket off just 79 balls and was soon passing his own personal half-century, his fourth in six innings.
That came up from 63 balls, featuring eight 4s and one 6, and the positivity with which he batted had put Surrey on the back foot once again.
Lancashire levelled the scores after 71.3overs and by tea had progressed to 212-3, a lead of 21.
The runs were now beginning to flow and Surrey were being made to toil. The century stand with Croft was reached from 131 balls and Petersen set about dismantling the visiting bowling attack.
His second fifty came from just 41 balls as he sealed a first century of the season, which included 16x4s and one six. His hundred from 104 balls was a master class, scoring runs all round the ground and displaying enviable timing.
It was a knock that ended four balls after reaching the milestone as he bottom-edged through to wicket-keeper Foakes. But in truth, he had done his job.
Petersen’s display rather stole the headlines from opener Tom Smith, who was playing in his first championship game since April 2015 after a potentially career-ending back injury. Resuming on seven overnight, Smith batted doggedly to graft his way to a fine half-century with the final ball before lunch. It had taken him 130 balls to reach the milestone, and when he tried to accelerate after lunch, he perished for 59 when Batty trapped him lbw.
Hameed, his opening partner, was also found runs hard to come by. His defensive fortitude though is mightily impressive, boasting a forward defence that brings to mind the great Rahul Dravid. It was a battling knock of 44, which ended in his 159th delivery when the right-hander chopped on off Stuart Meaker.
Their resistance, though impressive in its own way, had served to back Lancashire into something of a corner. When number three Luke Procter came and went for a duck, the hosts were crying out for that counter-punch and for someone to get the scoreboard moving.
And that’s what made the knock from Petersen all the more impressive: he read the situation and delivered the positive innings at the crucial moment.
To be fair to Surrey, they can be reasonably pleased with their bowling effort. They kept things very tight against the opening pair; despite not making the breakthrough until 99 was on the board. Their wickets came in clusters, three in quick succession after Smith departed, and then another burst when Petersen was out.
There was something of a mini collapse by Lancashire, sparked by a combination of Petersen’s wicket and the new ball, slipping from 263-3 to 293-7. Six wickets fell after tea and that bowling effort dragged Surrey somewhat back into the contest.
But the hosts closed unbeaten on 342-9, giving them a commanding first innings lead of 151, and Surrey still face an uphill struggle to avoid defeat in this match.