Croft curbs his attacking instinct to help Lancashire cling on for a draw

Lancashire 292 & 221-6 Somerset 383
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The Independent Online

Steven Croft's unbeaten 66 guided Lancashire to safety after Alfonso Thomas demonstrated his under-rated ability by taking three wickets in the morning session and another just after lunch, leaving the home side facing a battle to survive with their first-innings arrears barely wiped out and Somerset sensing they might squeeze a first win of the season from a match affected by the weather.

Thomas, the South African all-rounder who has been with Somerset as a Kolpak player for three seasons, mixed some testing short stuff with penetrating fuller deliveries in a way that made life difficult for the Lancashire top order, who had begun the last day confident of seeing out the draw – or a "hung match" as was suggested as an alternative description – but instead found batsmen falling like Labour seats.

They negotiated the first half an hour or so without alarm, but when Thomas replaced Damien Wright at the Stretford End, he struck with his first ball, taking out Luke Sutton's middle stump as Lancashire's emergency opener pushed forward.

Somerset's captain, Marcus Trescothick, rotated his bowlers frequently, further disrupting the Lancashire batsmen in their attempts to settle into the job in hand, and when Thomas switched to the Statham End he enjoyed more success when Paul Horton was bowled by one that nipped back off the pitch.

What was a mini-crisis for Lancashire became something more worrying when Thomas had Stephen Moore bowled off a bottom edge. Trescothick, diving to his left at first slip, dropped Ashwell Prince just before lunch but the miss cost nothing.

Immediately after the restart, Thomas jammed one in short at his fellow South African, who tried unsuccessfully to sway out of danger but failed, Prince gloving a catch to Jos Buttler behind the stumps.

With that Lancashire were effectively 9 for 4 and they were relieved when Thomas took a breather after 4 for 24 from 14 overs. But when Trescothick introduced Mike Munday at the Stretford End, the move yielded another instant dividend, the captain taking a comfortable catch as Mark Chilton aimed a rather loose drive at the leg-spinner's first ball.

Now Lancashire were beginning to appreciate the difficulty they were in, five down and only 35 ahead, and the onus was on Steven Croft, as the last recognised batsman, to curb his natural inclination to attack.

He lost one source of potential assistance when Kyle Hogg steered Wright into the hands of the wider of two gulleys, at which point Lancashire's lead was still only 54. But, with Glen Chapple blocking doggedly at one end and Croft assured at the other as he reached 66 off 128 balls, Somerset could make no more inroads and settled for the draw after an hour of the final session.