Lancashire loving life in the suburbs

Posted in Domestic Cricket

Liverpool

Lancashire are on course for a third straight win at their temporary new home

The book stall was offering free copies of Dickie Bird’s autobiography at Liverpool today, complete with a gag: “The ones that aren’t signed are the rare ones.”

It was an uncharacteristic piece of charity from Lancashire on another one-sided day that saw them establish a sizeable – and, the locals hope, match-winning – lead.

Having bowled Yorkshire out for a meagre 141 yesterday, Lancashire closed the second day on 327 for eight - 186 in front and enviably placed to push for a third successive LV= County Championship win at Aigburth.

Forced to play away from Old Trafford as they rotate the square 90 degrees, Lancashire have decamped to Liverpool for five of their eight home LV= County Championship games this season.

They are certainly relishing life at the outground, and there were precious few among the 1,800-strong crowd who could have had anything other than a thoroughly enjoyable day today.

Even the Yorkshire folk who travelled across the Pennines – there was the odd sighting of a faded blue retro Sunday League shirt – could not help but soak up the atmosphere at what I admit is one of my favourite cricket venues.

The merits of the Victorian pavilion have been well documented, but there were countless other reasons to warm the senses.

As ever, the weather helps infinitely (I’m sure those clad in four layers of clothing yesterday would agree), and as the sun beat down on the spectators sat by the boundary rope this afternoon, ice cream in one hand and factor 15 in the other, it was hard to think of many places I would rather be.

For those who have spent their cricket-watching life at grand venues such as – but not limited to – Old Trafford, a day at one of county cricket’s outposts represents a wonderfully refreshing change.

There’s the rare opportunity to stroll around the boundary, close enough to have a chat with third man. You can inspect the wicket at spitting distance during the interval. Or stroll around the outfield at will, although the couple who inadvertently wandered into a fielding drill at tea may want to plan their route better next time.

Then there are the fans: a bare-chested chap sporting the sort of tan that would not look out of place on the Algarve; an elderly gentleman replete with a dozen (and more) red roses pinned to his hat; and a man wearing a bandana who is old enough to know better.

The portaloos could not be faulted (admittedly, that may not have been the case later in the day), and there was the novelty of a fully functioning scorebox for the Lancashire members who have been forced to count on their fingers during the Old Trafford redevelopment.

Liverpool

Soaking up the atmosphere: Spectators can enjoy the rarefied delights of outground cricket at venues such as Liverpool

Even the stewards, who can normally be relied upon to put their unique, jobsworth-style dampener on these sort of events, were unfailingly polite and helpful, so much so that one ran on to the pitch midway through an over in an attempt to hand the box of new balls to the umpires.

What of the cricket, you ask? Well, it was a sedate rather affair, with steady accumulation taking precedence over electric strokeplay – at least until Farveez Maharoof came to the crease late on.

While Maharoof was afforded one of the most generous ovations of the day after falling for a sprightly 34, the crowd were never shy in showing their appreciation for the less glamorous achievements, be it a pleasant stroke for two through cover, a smart stop, an accurate throw or the passing of a landmark.

A regular smattering of gentle applause is as much a part of cricket as the sound of leather on willow, but especially so at outgrounds, where the overriding feeling is communal rather than corporate.

Barring the odd plane landing at nearby John Lennon Airport, or a police siren disappearing into the distance on Aigburth Road (unlike The Apprentice last night, ecb.co.uk will rise above cheap Liverpool stereotypes), the tranquillity was rarely broken.

That will be of greatest concern to Yorkshire, who had few reasons to cheer (two, to be precise) during the first two sessions, before a Joe Root-inspired fightback after tea.

Even the Lancashire fans could afford to be gracious, safe in the knowledge that their side will probably – though by no means certainly – win this game.

How far the contest goes will depend largely on how much fight Yorkshire – so anaemic yesterday – show in their second innings.

Yet there will be a more pressing question on everybody’s lips come tomorrow morning: will the bare-chested David Dickinson lookalike be put off by a less than encouraging weather forecast?

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