Emilio Gay looked at his elegant best as Northamptonshire’s batsmen dominated the first day of their LV= Insurance County Championship match against Lancashire at Emirates Old Trafford.
Gay proved that the pitch used for the recent Ashes Test was good for a day or two yet as he stroked 14 boundaries on his way to 144, one short of a career best, that helped his side post an impressive 302 for five.
For most of the day, the Northamptonshire opener batted with his captain and former Lancashire all-rounder, Luke Procter, and the pair’s 207-run fourth-wicket stand earned their side their second batting bonus point of the season.
The pair set a new fourth-wicket record for Northamptonshire against Lancashire, beating the unbroken 158 put on by Mushtaq Mohammed and Jim Watts at Liverpool in 1972
Yet the day had begun well for Lancashire, albeit with a little good fortune. Seamer George Balderson made the first breakthroughs of the morning when Ricardo Vasconcelos drove a wide half volley hard but was well caught by Steven Croft at backward point and Justin Broad clipped a full delivery with real timing but picked out midwicket low down.
That left Northamptonshire on 29 for two but Gay and Sam Whiteman put on 30 for the third wicket before Whiteman came down the wicket to Morley’s well-flighted slow left-arm and was stumped by Phil Salt for 20.
However, after helping Gay take Northamptonshire to 74 for three at lunch, Procter played a perfect second-fiddle role as the pair consolidated their earlier progress.
Home skipper, Keaton Jennings, rotated his bowlers imaginatively. The two left-arm spinners saw a bulk of the work, Morley and Tom Hartley operating in tandem Northamptonshire mixed solid defense with sharp running and occasional flashes of power to reach 191 for three at tea, batting through the afternoon session wicketless. By the time the interval came Lancashire’s spinning contingent had been increased to four, with Luke Wells bowling leg spin from the James Anderson End and Tom Bailey giving his off-spin a relatively rare outing.
In the evening session, Jennings used his spinners until the new ball became available but neither they nor the seamers could part Gay and Procter until Will Williams brought one back off the seam to have Procter given out lbw for 75, his fourth half-century in 12 innings after an injury-hit start to the season.
Six overs before the close Gay drove at a full length ball from Balderson and edged a catch to Salt, but Saif Zaib and nightwatchman Dom Leech, a Yorkshire loanee, ensured that Northamptonshire lost no more wickets before the close.