Light relief for Lancashire fans
Posted in Domestic Cricket
Free cans of Red Bull were being handed out in the press tent at Aigburth this afternoon.
Given some of the strokeplay witnessed over the last two days, one wonders whether a crate had found its way into the dressing rooms.
After 20 wickets tumbled yesterday, today’s tally of 13 was somewhat underwhelming.
Yet there was no shortage of action under gloriously blue skies, and those fortunate enough to escape the office/nagging wife/nagging husband (no sexism here on ecb.co.uk) could return home not only boasting a belter of a sun tan but also content in the knowledge that they had witnessed a day that may define the LV= County Championship title race.
Whether that translates into entertainment for a Lancashire crowd that is notoriously difficult to please is a moot point, especially since their side remain outsiders to win a game in which Durham require a further 154 runs with seven wickets in hand heading into the third day.
The surface escaped blame - and Lancashire avoided censure - after a remarkable opening day, and today it played much as ECB pitch liaison office Peter Walker suggested it might when he described it yesterday as "one of the best I’ve seen".
Indeed, if any fingers are to be pointed, they should be aimed in the general direction of the batsmen, the majority of whom had a significant hand in their own downfall.
Stephen Moore was perhaps the most culpable - the manner in which he hung his head after an airy drive at Graham Onions went straight to extra-cover to give their first wicket of the day suggested he agreed - and Steven Croft was similarly peeved after he sliced the largely ineffective Steve Harmison to gully.
While Paul Horton, who played with pleasing orthodoxy through the off side in making 64, and Karl Brown were clearly annoyed at lbw verdicts against them, the Harmison delivery which did for Mark Chilton demanded a straighter bat.
The more cantankerous members of the crowd had long since made the connection with the plethora of Twenty20 cricket played lately.
Gareth Cross, Sajid Mahmood and Luke Procter each had a stump removed via inside edges as they tried to force off the back foot, although Procter’s valiant 52 should render him immune to criticism.
His innings was arguably the best of the day, not only because it was central to Lancashire’s tail-end resistance but for the manner in which it was compiled.
Initially content to deal with solid defence interspersed with compact drives and tucks off his legs, Procter's growing ambition was illustrated by a meaty sweep of Ian Blackwell during a rapid 35-run stand for the ninth wicket in four overs with Junaid Khan.
The overthrows that gave Junaid a six to get off the mark were cheered wholeheartedly, a roar eclipsed by that which greeted his mighty mown six over the press tent at Scott Borthwick’s expense.
A matter of minutes later, as the first of three Durham wickets went down cheaply in the 10 overs they had to negotiate before the close, one Lancashire fan could be heard proclaiming ‘Here we go’.
Given that cricket-loving northerners are hardly renowned for their public praise (sexist ecb.co.uk may not be, but allow us certain stereotypes - and, besides, I count myself in that category), it revealed how much happier they were this evening compared to last.