Lancashire head coach Glen Chapple described Alex Davies’ counterattacking 97, on the second day of their match against Hampshire, as the best innings he’s seen this season.
Davies took just 92 balls for his knock before being dismissed three short of his fourth first-class century, quickly knocking off his side’s 75 run first innings deficit.
And during a season in which runs have been sometimes hard to come by – four of their first innings totals this season have been under 300 – Chapple had high praise for Davies.
“He took the attack to the Hampshire bowling,” he said. “He must have thought about his innings, and how he would be most effective on that pitch, and he backed himself to execute that.
“Everyone’s delighted for him: how he’s worked to come through a difficult period last year with injury; the amount of effort he’s put in in the gym to get his knee strong again and to take on keeping and opening the batting.
“We all know it’s a huge challenge and the way he’s responded to that is great to see.
“I’m very disappointed that he didn’t get his hundred, but it was a great knock for the team.”
It could well be that his innings saves the match for Lancashire but doesn’t enable them to win it, after the third day was washed out with long periods of rain for much of the afternoon making the surface unfit for play.
Where Davies had raced through the gears, his opening partner, Haseeb Hameed, batted in exactly the opposite manner, accumulating an unbeaten 77 in 76 overs of play on the second afternoon.
It is his highest score since his second innings in the third Test in India during the winter, and Chapple is glad Hameed is back in the runs.
“He’s played some 2nd team cricket since the break from championship cricket started. He got a hundred at Urmston; he obviously works very hard at his game and he played really well yesterday.
“As his innings went on he became more fluent and that’s what you’d expect to see. Everybody knows that players can go through a struggle at times, and hopefully he’s coming out of it.
“His rate of scoring was going up throughout last season. He was finding more areas to score and put the pressure back on the bowlers.
“At the start of the year he was very determined to occupy the crease and there’s nothing wrong with either approach. Right now, I’m sure his focus is on getting in, staying in, and then going big.”
From a Hampshire perspective, those two innings have turned what looked like a very winnable game into one they could well still lose, dependant on tomorrow’s weather.
“If we’d had some play today, if we could have bowled them out quickly, then we’d still be chasing whatever they got minus 75,” mused Jimmy Adams.
“Looking at it that way, then, possibly it makes it trickier for us to get a positive result which we’d like.
“I suppose, in a way, if we get play tomorrow probably Lancashire are thinking they’re the ones that can post a score, and try and think about how many overs they need to have a go at bowling us out.
“Unfortunately, yesterday we weren’t able to stem their scoring. That was the thing more than anything.
“I think day one we stemmed their scoring when we weren’t taking wickets, but yesterday we weren’t able to do that as effectively.
“The bowlers have done a really good job for the majority of the year, so have the odd off day here and there – and hopefully it is just the odd one. It’s certainly a game where we were in a very good position and we let that slide a bit.”
Fortunately for them, tomorrow’s forecast indicates precipitation in abundance. It should, if nothing else, provide plenty of time for other activities, as it did today: Lancashire’s players were spotted on the Hedge End driving range as the rain fell.