When Stephen Moore moved to Old Trafford from Worcestershire the winter before last, it was supposed that the step up might hasten a senior England call-up for the Lions batsman. Sadly, a meagre return of four half-centuries in his first 29 first-class innings for Lancashire has pushed the 30-year-old opener well down the queue, although a dislocated shoulder last season did not help.
He went a long way towards putting matters right here yesterday. His unbeaten 124 steered Lancashire to a six-wicket victory here, their sixth of the season, keeping them in firm contention for the First Division title.
They lost one bonus point for slow over-rate but will still take on leaders Durham at Liverpool next Monday just seven behind, with a game in hand. Provided they do not go out of business – and until the legal battle surrounding the Old Trafford redevelopment is settled in their favour they will not be making any jokes of their own along those lines – this could be quite a year.
Moore, for one, thinks they are squarely in the hunt. "At the end of the Durham game we will have a good idea of where we are at," he said "But we feel we are playing a good brand of cricket and can be in with a shout."
As Lancashire chased down the 237 they needed on a pitch bedevilled by uneven bounce, Moore's application and resilience – he had taken two bangs on the same finger on Wednesday evening – brought him his first Championship hundred since his 107 for Worcestershire against Lancashire in July 2009. A week or so earlier, he had made a century for England Lions against the Australians.
He admitted that the last two years had been frustrating, although only up to a point. "I have not scored the weight of runs in four-day cricket I would have liked but I have done well in one-day cricket," he said. "Trying to advance my England ambitions was part of the reason for joining Lancashire, but not the only one."
Samit Patel's forced withdrawal left champions Nottinghamshire short of bowling options, with Graeme White, the left-arm spinner who would have been his replacement, injured. Notts instead fielded 18-year-old Sam Wood, a rookie England Under-19 batsman and only occasional off-spinner.
But director of cricket Mick Newell would offer no excuses, even after Riki Wessels had dropped Moores on 57, spilling a routine catch at deep backward point that might have made the outcome closer, at least, had he held it.
Newell conceded that a successful title defence after four consecutive defeats now looked unlikely, blaming their perennial lack of top-order runs. "Our chances are looking pretty slim," he said. "We probably have to win five games out of the last eight, which is not realistic the way we are playing.
"It is difficult to come back from 81 for 7 but we have been 81 for 7 all too often and though guys like Andre Adams, Paul Franks and Chris Read have shown no lack of character, we cannot expect to keep getting out of those situations.
"It is not easy for the top-order players on the wickets here but when you have guys who can bat for a long time with good technique as Moore and Paul Horton have done you can see what can be achieved."
Newell mentioned ruefully that Notts had tried to sign Moore themselves two years ago but is more concerned now with a so-far fruitless quest for find an overseas replacement for David Hussey, whose call-up for Australia will only emphasise their shortage of runs.