An unbeaten 190 from Keaton Jennings and half centuries by Steven Croft and George Balderson put Lancashire firmly in control of this final LV=Insurance County Championship of the season against champions Surrey after they compiled a mammoth opening day total of 414-5.
Jennings’ superlative knock was a timely reminder to a wider audience of his skills in front of the Sky cameras and had many speculating about an England recall for a player who is having a season to remember more than three years since he last played Test cricket.
There had been high hopes that this clash between two of the Championship’s pace setters would have had more riding on it coming into the last week of the campaign, but Hampshire’s loss to Kent ensured that Surrey had already the clinched the title by the time they arrived at Emirates Old Trafford to play third place Lancashire.
Nevertheless, with the visitors keen to maintain their unbeaten season and the Red Rose hoping to put a disappointing trophy-less climax to 2022 behind them, there was still an edge to the first morning which was played in pleasant if cold autumnal sunshine.
Jennings and opening partner Luke Wells have been a force all season and they looked comfortable as they eased their way to a first wicket stand of 58 before Wells was brilliantly caught at short leg off the bowling of slow left armer Dan Moriarty for 36.
23-year-old Moriarty, playing his first Championship match of the season, looked a real threat on a worn looking pitch and in the 29th over he produced a stunning delivery that tempted Bohannon forward then back and ended up clipping the top of the Bolton-born batter’s off stump.
Bohannon’s departure for 12 brought Croft to the crease and united Lancashire’s two best players this season with the score 96-2.
For the whole of the middle session and on past tea the pair scored freely with the likes of Jamie Overton, Kemar Roach and Jordan Clarke struggling to make any impact against the Red Rose batters.
Jennings reached fifty for the seventh time this season before Croft brought up his half-century from 81 balls and it was on the stoke of tea that the South African-born opener made three figures for the fifth time in what has been a marvellous campaign for the former England batter who has now scored 10 centuries for Lancashire and 25 first-class hundreds overall.
It all seemed very sedate and so it was a shock when Croft, who looked to be nailed on for a third century of the season, was trapped in front attempting to sweep leg spinner Cameron Steel for 86 to end the third wicket partnership at 195.
Croft’s departure sparked a mini collapse from the hosts with skipper Dane Vilas departing for three after top edging Steel to Ryan Patel before George Bell was unluckily caught out of his ground when Steel got the faintest of touches to a Jennings drive and deflected the ball back on to the non-striker’s stumps.
While Lancashire were not exactly reeling at 304-5, Surrey had an opening that was quickly slammed shut by the voracious Jennings and the incoming George Balderson who took the hosts through to 414-5 at the close at such a rate of knots that the sixth wicket pair had put on an unbeaten stand of 110 by stumps leaving Balderson 53 not out and Jennings on the cusp of a double century.