Livingstone & Hameed – Lancashire v Warwickshire, June.
As Karl Brown departs the Old Trafford field he does so accompanied by the Laurel and Hardy theme, whistled from somewhere in the stands. With a trio of Lancashire wickets lost in the space of five deliveries, the home side find themselves in Another Fine Mess. The stage is set for the Red Rose County’s own mismatched L & H double act – two young cricketers separated by only a couple of years in age, but a lifetime apart in their approach to batting.
Liam Livingstone: twenty-one, broad of shoulder and all power and haste. Haseeb Hameed: nineteen, tall though slight and possessed with endless patience. The former, fresh from clubbing Lancashire’s fastest T20 half-century off just 21 balls. The latter, yet to participate in either of the shorter forms of the game. Each score a century in their own, vastly different styles.
Livingstone, taking three hours to slug his second hundred of the year and thumping fourteen boundaries. Hameed, compiling his maiden first-class ton in almost twice that time while hitting half that number. The modern and the classical. An unlikely duo combining for our viewing pleasure.
Lord Misbah – England v Pakistan, July.
From a pair of young players with a collective age of forty-one to a 42-year-old playing his first Test in England. In complete contrast to the Fred Astaire popping out of a jack-in-the-box and tapping along the crease routine of Younis Khan at the other end, Misbah-ul-Haq projects an altogether calmer figure at the Home of Cricket.
Misbah the surgeon, he performs a four-hour operation on the England attack. His blade slicing precise cuts to relieve pressure, a dark red droplet trickles away from the incision.
Misbah the matador, a picture of serenity in the face of danger. The slight tense of his body in front of the oncoming opponent before an almost imperceptible flick of the wrists sends the bull rushing past.
Misbah the magnificent, a hundred to his name and a place on the honours board. A wave of the bat, a salute to his men and ten press-ups for good measure.
Misbah the irate, incredulous at nightwatchman Rahat Ali’s attempt to play a back-foot drive to the final delivery of the day, only to edge it onto his stumps.
Misbah the merciful, the crowds rapturous applause softening his mood.
Don’t Panic! Don’t Panic! – Lancashire v Middlesex, September.
13:54 Dad’s Army (r) Despite his exhortations to do otherwise, Lance Corporal Jones is prone to fits of over excitement, flapping and flailing at the merest hint of action. In this episode, (Rob) Jones comes to the rescue as, in the repeat of a plot seen a little too often this season, the Lancashire home guard are in a spot of trouble.
‘We’re doomed!’, Private Frazer would have, no doubt, exclaimed had he caught sight of the scoreboard after less than eight overs of their first innings. With Captain Croft and the rest of the top order nowhere to be found, Rob Jones, in only his third appearance, is left in charge of the town’s defences. Jos Buttler has a short cameo, briefly flashing his smile and his bat, before our boys end up in more bother (32 for 5).
Jones, ably assisted at times by Livingstone and then Tom Bailey, mans the barricades for almost seven hours – from facing the opening Middlesex offensive, he will be the last man standing. After an over that sees Bailey and Kyle Jarvis depart within a ball of each other and Jones still six runs short of a maiden first-class hundred with only two wickets remaining, stoic defence turns into frenzied attack as he repels Ollie Rayner all the way into the seats under The Point. The quiet, composed twenty-year-old now flapping and flailing, waving his bat and yelling excitedly.