Lancashire’s preseason has seen them take in a variety of locales, none of which have been remotely local. A tour of Dubai, a university match against Cambridge at Fenner’s, plus friendlies at Taunton and Hampshire. With two further trips southwards to begin the Championship season – to Essex and Surrey – the first competitive cricket at Old Trafford is still eleven days away. Which makes the scheduling of this four-day second team friendly against Yorkshire something of a salve to Red Rose fans starved of live cricket over the last seven months.
Having been impatient to get my season started, I’d already seen my first action of the year on the other side of the Pennines, but, apart from the weather – a chilly, stone-grey morning that will eventually be won over by an azure sky and bright sunshine – my first visit to Old Trafford of 2017, is quite a different experience. At Headingley, I had sat alone and barely uttered a word all day, concentrating purely on the action in front of me. Here, despite a crowd that probably numbers considerably less than a hundred, I sit for much of the day with faces I haven’t seen since last September and find myself distracted by events out of my field of vision. Events such as the final day of the first team’s match against Essex.
A match for which Glen Chapple had sprung a number of surprises. Whilst amateur internet pundits such as myself had guessed Rob Jones or Luke Procter would be picked to open with Haseeb Hameed, neither would, in fact, make the eleven. Instead, Chapple chose wicketkeeper Alex Davies for the role and included Jordan Clark as a second all-rounder. Perhaps the biggest shock had come in his choice of spinner with Stephen Parry, in place of Simon Kerrigan, due to play his first Championship match since August 2014.
After three days at Chelmsford, Lancashire require 8 wickets for a win and have a full day in which to get them. Having bowled their hosts out inside sixty-six overs in their first innings, it seems a game Lancashire are wholly capable of winning.
In many ways, my return to Old Trafford, where I’d spent so much of last summer, reminds me of my first visit, twelve months ago. Then, I had overheard the wishing of belated New Years greetings and enquiries of peoples winters whereas today I am actually involved in such exchanges. With this being my first foray into second team action, I am also faced with many players that I’ve never heard of – a similar situation to my debut here and one which is made more difficult today by the fact that most of those involved have no name or number on their sweaters.
After Karl Brown is trapped lbw by Yorkshire’s captain for the day, David Willey, for 9, Rob Jones is joined in the middle by a tall, left-hander whose jumper is not only bereft of any means of identification, but also appears to be from two seasons ago. Within three balls, nameless at the crease is dropped by nameless at third slip – is there, perhaps, some anonymous 2nd XI players union? An unspoken agreement prohibiting the catching of other unnamed cricketers?
The batsmen isn’t truly anonymous though, the scoreboard giving his surname as Turner. However, due to his announcement into the game clashing with a growl of construction from the building work still taking place around the ground, I incorrectly believe him to be called Carl – I find out later that he is actually Calum. Jones and Turner build a solid partnership either side of the lunch break, reaching 105-1. The former solid in defence, the latter striking solidly through gaps in the field. Any further advance, unfortunately, is thwarted by one man.
Their tormentor is the unassuming-sounding superhero, (James) Wainman. Despite a handle that may suggest an ability to turn himself into a horse-drawn farm cart at a moments notice, his power is that of taking wickets both regularly and economically – a talent of far greater use on a cricket field.
Turner goes first, edging to the unknown wicketkeeper for 47 – there goes the anonymous 2nd XI players union! – and Jones soon joins him. Despite hitherto looking as unshakable and unhurried as in his last appearance here – having carried his bat with an unbeaten century against Middlesex – Jones elects to fish in deeper waters, way outside his off stump, only to hook a big one and find himself pulled in, rod-first, before being hauled out of the drink, and this innings, by unidentified at slip after scoring 42. Brooke Guest doesn’t outstay his welcome, checking out early, and Danny Lamb quickly follows suit. Four batsmen gone in the space of ten overs and all to Wainman – he will claim a fifth before the day is out.
There is drama, too, at Chelmsford. Having been unable to make a breakthrough in the morning, Lancashire claim three wickets almost in tandem with those that fall here at Old Trafford. The first eleven need to claim another five for victory. The second eleven, on the other hand, can’t seem to stop losing them as Lavelle goes leaving the score 139-6. Apart from an enterprising cameo by Josh Bohannon, it is left to a few of the usual suspects in the Lancashire tail to salvage something from the day.
That Arron Lilley has a first-class batting average of over thirty-three, albeit from less than a season’s worth of games, is quite surprising. That it comes with a strike rate of just over ninety-four is considerably less surprising. Lilley, from the little I have seen of him, is not a man to simply stand idle and today proves to be no exception as he swats 41 runs from 42 balls, all but 5 of which come via boundaries, before he is stumped on the look-out for more.
Not to be outdone is Simon Kerrigan. Possibly smarting after his exclusion from the first team, he clubs 57 off 50 deliveries and then removes both Callis and Willey in the space of five balls early in the Yorkshire reply. On a day with twelve wickets falling at Old Trafford, only a third of that number would be taken at Chelmsford where Dan Lawrence proves to be Lancashire’s nemesis, batting for over seven hours to secure his side a draw to begin 2017.
With two sessions at Headingley and a full day here, my own preseason training is complete. I have reaccustomed myself to sitting, session after session, in a less-than-comfortable plastic seat – not so much ‘digging in’ as being ‘dug into’ – and my writing hand has had valuable endurance training for the making of hastily scrawled notes. Of course, the preparation of unimaginative sandwiches is a skill, much like riding a bike, that you never forget. I now feel ready for competitive action, once more. Action that will begin on Friday 21st April when Lancashire welcome Somerset to Old Trafford.
Close of play: Lancashire 2nd XI 257, Yorkshire 2nd XI 31 for 2.