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The inaugural Roses Match was played in 1867, during what was a bumper year for the fixture. The two sides first met at Station Road cricket ground in Whalley on 20-22 June, an encounter which Yorkshire won by an innings and 56 runs. At Old Trafford, a week later, Lancashire would fare only marginally better, this time losing by ‘only’ 165 runs. In a tough year for followers of the Red Rose, there would be a further defeat, this time inside two days, at Middlesbrough in early September. 

By the time of Neville Cardus, battles between the rival counties had settled into dates around Whitsun – seven Sundays after Easter – and the August Bank Holiday – then the first Monday of that month. In 2016, my debut year following cricket, the two sides met at Headingley in late May over the Spring Bank Holiday – Whit Monday’s replacement – with the reverse fixture at Old Trafford in the middle of August, still reasonably close to the traditional dates.

Quite where these fixtures have fallen in the calendar between Cardus’ day and mine I can’t be entirely sure without a very time-consuming investigation into the matter, but I’ll wager none of them have been scheduled quite so haphazardly as this year’s meetings. The match at Headingley in early June will actually be played over Whitsun, however the game at Old Trafford takes place a fortnight before that on the third weekend of May.

There is to be a round of fixtures in between, but neither of these counties are involved. Anyone wishing to enjoy some Championship cricket involving either Lancashire or Yorkshire on Bank Holiday Monday will be out of luck. In 2017, the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of these clashes, four-day Roses hostilities are to be played back to back and will be wrapped up for the season on June 5th, only two months into it.

What, one wonders, would Cardus say? What, too, would the former Guardian scribe have made of the blowing of vuvuzelas, waving of inflatable bananas and climbing of a mock rock face, erected behind the media centre. This is not your usual Roses Match. The crowd of Lancashire fans, and a healthy number of supporters from across the Pennines, are bolstered today by over three thousand schoolchildren.

At least Cardus would have recognised what took place on the field. It is not the sort of morning to inspire a lifetime’s love for the sport in the hearts of the youngsters sitting in the stands or waiting in the queue for the ice cream van. Just 71 runs have been mustered by lunch. A scoring rate which hasn’t improved by the time the children, plus the ice cream van, have all vacated the ground with a mere 103 runs on the board from almost half the day’s allotted overs.

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Only a late, Andy Hodd-inspired surge pushes Yorkshire up and over the 250 mark and a second batting point just before stumps. It isn’t just the run-rate that is a little slow either. Despite a day containing 46 overs of spin and the fall of just six wickets, play somehow contrives to last until almost a quarter past six.

The reason for the lack of Lancashire pace bowling being their lack of pace bowlers. Forty-five minutes into the match, and on the point of unleashing a delivery, James Anderson pulls up, goes to ground and sprawls on the wicket in obvious discomfort before hobbling off the field. An unfortunate injury – confirmed days later as a tear of the groin – that leaves the home side with just two quick bowlers in Tom Bailey and Ryan McLaren and almost four days of cricket to play.

Captain Steven Croft steps into the breach to deliver a couple of overs of medium pace, seemingly such a rare occurrence that only his slow bowling is listed in Playfair. As an interesting sidenote, he would send down a few of his more usual off-breaks in the final throes of this game on Monday evening. Having spent much of last year as an emergency wicket-keeper, you do rather expect Croft to appear behind the Pavilion bar on busy afternoons, pulling pints and helping the beleaguered staff out.

Close of play: Yorkshire 251 for 6

Had any of yesterday’s children felt the urge to return to Old Trafford on Saturday, they would face a further test of their resolve in cricket’s stormy relationship with the weather. Even as I arrive, there are already spots of rain in the air and it doesn’t take long for those to multiply into a fully fledged shower. After just twenty-five minutes, six overs, 14 runs and a solitary wicket, play is halted.

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By the time it resumes, almost five hours later, I am gone. In my absence, Lancashire are undone by a pair of Jacks – messrs Leaning and Brooks – who, in a far cry from Friday’s slim pickings, pad Yorkshire’s total with 156 runs in an elongated evening session. Brooks, who had been on nought when the rain came, finishes the day needing only six runs for his maiden first-class century.

Close of play: Yorkshire 421 for 7

Sunday morning contains mixed fortunes for the Yorkshire Jacks. Leaning, having been in the middle off and on since 2pm on Friday, is finally removed with the fifth ball of the day whilst Brooks carefully nudges the six singles he requires to bring up his hundred. Having dropped his bat to celebrate this milestone, he then throws it at everything that comes his way, like a man swatting rampantly at a fly with a rolled-up newspaper, until the White Rose declare a couple of overs later.

Brooks’ fine day continues as he beats Haseeb Hameed for pace and uproots his off-stump, four overs into the Lancashire reply. Despite a promising transition to the one-day game, averaging a touch under forty from eight innings, Hameed’s form in the Championship must be as worrying to the England selectors as James Anderson’s groin. Two scores in the forties against Essex at Chelmsford have been followed by just seven runs in four attempts, having faced only thirty-three deliveries – on Monday morning, as the home side pursue the follow-on target, I secretly hope Lancashire will have to bat again to give the young opener some much needed time at the crease.

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Neither Liam Livingstone nor Steven Croft last much longer and so, with the home side struggling at 39 for 3, Shivnarine Chanderpaul strolls to the middle, removes a bail and squats down. The 42-year-old lines up the bail and hammers it into the wicket with the handle of his bat. A craftsman practising some long-forgotten trade. The rhythmic, wooden clunk reverberating around a ground now free of vuvuzelas and building work.

A few months after Chanderpaul made his Test debut in March 1994, against England in Georgetown, I sat my GCSEs. Had that year’s maths exam asked me to explain the West Indian’s angular and awkward stance at the crease – plus show all of my working out – I may have found myself leaving school a qualification light. No set squares, nor compass, nor protractor, nor even Pythagoras whispering answers from the seat behind could have helped calculate such an equation. However, with almost twelve thousand Test runs to his name, Chanderpaul has clearly discovered the formula.

Set up as if expecting the ball to come from somewhere around the mid-wicket area, before scuttling across to greet the delivery and guide it away, expending no more energy than is needed. Each shot distilled down to it’s most basic movements. A casual flick for four to the longest part of the field that lightly crests the rope narrowly ahead of the two fielders in pursuit. A nonchalant leave, his bat unmoved. Twelve minutes short of five hours fly by as, while the sun burns away the clouds overhead, he steers Lancashire out of danger on the field.

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Just as it seems likely Chanderpaul will bat out the day, and possibly a good deal of tomorrow as well, a slight miscalculation, a momentary slip of the compass opens up his leg-stump for Ben Coad and he is bowled for 106.

Close of play: Yorkshire 448 for 8 dec, Lancashire 264 for 6

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A month after Ryan McLaren and Stephen Parry had strode out to the Old Trafford wicket on the final morning of a match, they do so again, albeit under very different circumstances. Against Somerset in April, on a day rich with promise, any and all results had been possible. Not so, today. With that same pair in the middle, Lancashire require 33 runs to avoid the follow-on and condemn this game to an inevitable stalemate. A feat they accomplish in less than forty minutes.

In one fell swoop, four leg-byes signal the passing of that target, a fifty partnership for the batsmen in question, a further bonus point for the Red Rose and unofficial confirmation of the draw. A flurry of achievements that are greatly applauded. The contest may be over, however we are still five hours short of a handshake. Cue a very pleasant afternoon of stress-free cricket as the crowd are treated to runs in the sun –  almost 300 in a day of a little more than 70 overs.

Parry and McLaren add plenty, but both fall short of milestones. The former six runs away from a new highest first-class score and the latter on 84, attempting a reverse sweep with a century for his new county in sight. There is also the somewhat curious resurrection of James Anderson, risen from the treatment table to bat, briefly, with Simon Kerrigan.

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Four days after leaving the field with the physio, Anderson returns, bat in hand, this time accompanied by Liam Livingstone – there to do the England pace bowler’s legwork. Neither are out in the middle for very long as, just three runs shy of his previous best, Kerrigan has his stumps parted by Tim Bresnan.

Despite having removed Adam Lyth early in Yorkshire’s second innings, the Lancashire spinner has no better luck with the ball in hand as the visitors plunder him for more than eight runs an over. Chief tormentor being Peter Handscomb. As the Australian scores freely off him – 43 runs off a mere 27 deliveries – Kerrigan may be having flashbacks to his only Test appearance so far, a roughing up in 2015’s Ashes match at The Oval.

Shortly after Handscomb has completed his maiden Championship hundred – an entertaining, if rather risky ton off just 76 balls – hands are shaken and the draw rubber-stamped. Roses bragging rights even until the sides meet again in just eleven days time.

Match drawn. Yorkshire 448 for 8 dec and 177 for 1 dec, Lancashire 432.

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