Lancashire 280 for 9 (Croft 90, Norwell 4-78) trail Warwickshire 292 (Hain 130, D Lamb 3-43, Balderson 3-68) by 12 runs
Croft’s previous three red-ball innings against the Bears had brought just three runs, but his gritty 90 (183 balls, ten fours, one six) led his side to 280 for nine in reply to 292.
On an intensely competitive, hard-fought day, Lancashire’s first innings was a mirror image of Warwickshire’s the day before. Where Sam Hain’s century had underpinned the home side’s batting with only sporadic support, Croft formed a similar backbone for the Red Rose with similarly bit-part contributions from his colleagues.
Liam Norwell, playing his first game back after injury, led the Bears’ bowling with four for 78.
With Lancashire 12 runs behind with one first-innings wicket left, the match could hardly be more finely poised at the halfway point.
Having bowled Warwickshire out in the penultimate over of the first day, Lancashire launched their innings at the start of the second and lost Keaton Jennings, caught behind off Olly Hannon-Dalby, to the 17th ball.
Norwell took the next two wickets. Josh Bohannon edged a drive and was well held by Will Rhodes high at third slip and then Luke Wells (36, 87 balls) mishooked to mid off.
Croft took root though and added 69 in 15 overs with Dane Vilas (37, 51 balls). The latter looked in good nick but stalked off the field in an state of angst having been adjudged caught by Hain at leg slip off spinner Danny Briggs. Lancashire’s captain evidently felt that he did not hit the ball – video evidence suggested he may have had a point.
Rob Jones (28, 67 balls) helped construct another half-century stand with Croft but then mispulled Henry Brookes to mid-on. Jones thereby joined the lengthy list in this game of batters to get in then get out, as did George Balderson (19, 35) when he chipped Rhodes to extra cover.
That left Lancashire on 226 for six with a new ball due. Danny Lamb twice pulled it into the Hollies Stand off Norwell but the paceman got his revenge via an edge to first slip.
Norwell then flattened Tom Bailey’s off stump before, just as Hain had been uprooted right at the end of the first day, Croft fell, edging the deserving Brookes to first slip, just as the Bears groundstaff were getting ready to put the cat out.