Northants skipper Stephen Peters admitted that Steven Croft and Ashwell Prince ‘ground us into the dirt’ as Lancashire dominated day one of the LV= Championship clash between the sides at Old Trafford.
Croft and Prince both made big centuries as Lancashire’s batsmen enjoyed their best day of the season to date.
Coming together with their side poorly placed on 33 for three in 14th over, Prince and Croft added 332 for the fourth wicket and put the bowlers to the sword in merciless fashion on the opening day of the clash.
Having batted for two minutes short of five hours, Croft was dismissed seven overs before the close for a career-best 156 but Prince remained undefeated on 161 as Lancashire ended the day on 384 for four and virtually certain to earn a maximum five batting bonus points for the first time this season.
Croft and Prince’s partnership was Lancashire’s highest in first-class matches against Northamptonshire and the biggest ever fourth-wicket stand at the ground.
It was also the county’s third-highest stand at Manchester and Lancashire’s biggest partnership for any wicket since 2003.
And Peters said: “Given that we had two spinners in the side we’d have liked to have won the toss, but we started nicely and brightly.
“We were probably only one wicket away from winning the session at lunch but after that Prince and Croft played very well and it was one-way traffic.
“We dropped a catch but then those two guys ground us into the dirt all afternoon I’m afraid.”
The brutal slaughter of the visitors’ bowling in the final two sessions was a far cry from the atmosphere in the first hour of play when the Northants attack had made good use of early moisture in the Old Trafford wicket and made three breakthroughs after Lancashire had won the toss and elected to bat.
Alex Davies was lbw when barely half forward to Lancashire old boy Steven Crook for 14 in the 12th over of the innings and Usman Khawaja followed him to the pavilion six balls later when Azharullah brought one back off the seam to trap the Australian in front.
The visitors’ success continued in the next over when Paul Horton edged a lifting delivery from Crook to wicketkeeper Ben Duckett and few in the crowd can have guessed then that they were about to witness the making of two centuries and the rewriting of the record books.
However, as the wicket eased and the new ball lost most of its hardness, Croft and Prince settled into their task with ominous ease.
Croft was given a life on 34 when dropped by wicketkeeper Ben Duckett off Azharullah.
But the pair added 172 runs in only 35 overs in the afternoon session with Croft reaching three figures for the second time in four innings with a pulled four off spinner James Middlebrook, while Prince followed his partner four overs later with a clip to midwicket for two off the same bowler.
Having hit 15 fours and two sixes, Croft eventually fell when his tired prod at a ball from Andrew Hall only edged the ball to Middlebrook at slip.
Like Croft, Prince returned to a standing ovation but the South African is still there to torment Northamptonshire on the second morning. Prince has so far hit 17 fours and three sixes and faced 234 balls in his 332-minute innings.
Crook ended the toughest of days as the most successful of the Northants bowlers with two for 63.
Croft said: “When we got together the main aim was just to repair the innings.
“The new ball was swinging quite a bit and it wasn’t easy. We were in a tricky situation which is why it is even more pleasing. It was nice to get past the 100, then the 150 and it kept going.
“It was very pleasing to get the 300. I hadn’t been there and Ashwell told me he hadn’t done it either so it was pleasing to be the first with all the experience he has got in the game.
“It was disappointing to get out just before the close, but Ashwell is still there.”