Lancashire fans have been known to have the odd grumble about the elements over the years – usually something along the lines of how rain has deprived them of winning the County Championship since they shared it in 1950 – but the weather gods smiled upon the Red Rose yesterday.
Playing Worcestershire at Blackpool's picturesque Stanley Park, the home side's first innings had already been delayed because of a beating sun reflecting off a car windscreen and distracting the batsmen. Then local lad Steven Croft had a huge let-off on 33 when he top-edged the ball to long-leg where Shaaiq Choudhry was temporarily blinded by the sun and was unable to take what looked like a regulation chance.
Croft went on to make his second successive Championship century, reaching his ton in the grand manner by smashing one of his four sixes out of the ground. Croft's 107 was the mainstay of Lancashire's 282.
How good a total this was quickly became apparent as the Pears were reduced to 28 for 5, evergreen Lancs captain Glen Chapple snaring three victims. If Lancashire win the title, they can point to the fact that their outgrounds – Liverpool, Southport and Blackpool – have produced more "result" pitches than Old Trafford. The Blackpool pitch is certainly sporting after a wet summer in the north-west but pitch inspector Chris Broad gave the cut strip the thumbs-up.
One of Lancashire's title rivals, Somerset, were rained off for the day after reaching 20 for 2 against Nottinghamshire at Taunton. Elsewhere in the First Division, Sussex were reduced to 27 for 3 by an inspired Ryan Sidebottom burst but Michael Yardy made a very popular century – and wicketkeeper Ben Brown also made a ton – as Sussex fought back in style.
In the Second Division, leaders Northamptonshire were bowled out for 267 by Derbyshire, ex-Notts paceman Mark Footitt taking five wickets. At Colchester, 21-year-old Adam Wheater cracked 17 boundaries and cleared the ropes five times in a quickfire century as Essex posted 359 for 9 against Gloucestershire, Ryan ten Doeschate also reaching three figures. At the bottom of the table, Kent were skittled for 242 by Middlesex, swing merchant Corey Collymore claiming four scalps. Cellar dwellers Leicestershire reduced Glamorgan to 329 for 8, Independent columnist Matthew Hoggard taking 2 for 39 on his return from injury.