Lancashire556 for 7 dec (Bohannon 231, Vilas 139, Wells 59) beat Gloucestershire 252 (Harris 67, Dent 52, Higgins 51*, Hasan 6-47) and 247 (Lace 71, Hammond 50, Hasan 3-49, Parkinson 3-79) by an innings and 57 runs
So much for the deficiencies of the County Championship. So much for its lack of intensity. So much for the presence in the four-day game of cricketers who do not deserve to be professionals. If only those who lob these slurs could have been at Emirates Old Trafford.
For an hour Hammond and his captain, Graeme van Buuren, batted with some ease against the faster bowlers, but Lancashire’s attack in this match permitted the batters no respite. A few seconds before noon, van Buuren came forward to a ball from Parkinson that turned enough to take the edge en route to Luke Wells at slip. The legspinner’s next ball also turned; Ryan Higgins went back to it…and was doomed. The Gloucestershire allrounder often epitomises his team resistance; here he encapsulated their woe as he gazed dumbfounded at his disarranged off stump.
Lace came in on both a hat-trick and a king pair but avoided both these embarrassments. He would have collected a plebeian pair, however, had Vilas held on to a low chance off Parkinson at mid-off. Vilas berated himself for around two overs and then longer when Lace and Hammond batted for the next hour to take their side in to lunch still five down. Somehow, though, neither batsman looked quite as immovable as Hamidullah Qadri had at Canterbury a week ago. If visiting supporters shared these misgivings they would probably have been less surprised just after lunch when Hammond was leg before to a ball from Anderson that jagged back into him or when Zafar Gohar was beaten all ends by a legspinner of full length from Parkinson that he managed to play inside.
Still, though, Gloucestershire would not yield. Shaw clumped Parkinson for a six over long-on and then spent the next 80 minutes supporting Lace, who reached his second fifty of the season. The pair put on 79, thus setting a new eighth-wicket record for Gloucestershire against Lancashire, and the cricket became pleasingly becalmed for the visitors, especially once the new ball had been taken and neutralised.
Lancashire needed an X factor and over the next month or so they might find that Hasan provides it. Mind you, Shaw had only himself to blame for bunting the Pakistani fast bowler through the slips. This prompted a bouncer, a candid exchange of views, and then another bouncer. The fifth ball of the 91st over whistled through Shaw’s defence like hot curry through a delicate constitution. It uprooted the off stump. “Checkmate” remarked Hassan, although the comment may have lost something in translation.
We waited for Gloucestershire’s tail to crumble away but it never did so. Wakefield-born Shaw was replaced by Wakefield-born Warner and the delight at defying Lancastrians was thus maintained. Warner defended straight balls and tried to ignore others. Lace picked up runs whenever they were freely available but any satisfaction he had taken from his personal half-century had long been subordinated to the team’s objective.
The ninth-wicket pair’s resistance stretched deep into the evening session and a few Gloucestershire supporters, watching on the live stream, probably dared to hope this great thing could be done. Three overs before the last hour was due to start, Mahmood bowled a wideish ball outside the off stump to Lace, who edged it, hard and chest-high, to Steven Croft at second slip…and Croft dropped the thing.
Now the draw was certainly at the races. Vilas rotated his world-class attack with aplomb but Anderson had no joy from the end named after him and was withdrawn. With 10.1 overs left in the day, Mahmood beat Lace, seemingly outside the off pole, and Lancashire’s players began to celebrate. The Gloucestershire batsman indicated that he had not touched it but it was then pointed out to him that the ball had brushed the off stump and the force had dislodged the leg bail. Lace had batted 266 minutes and faced 201 balls. His 71 runs were of less account. This was a noble innings and a triumph of temperament.
Still, though, van Buuren’s batters would not give in and the captain was so right to speak of his pride in them when this great game was done. He was right, too, to speak of Gohar, whose 65 overs in Lancashire’s only innings kept Vilas’s batters honest. But such thoughts are recollections in tranquility. The only things that matter to Lancashire’s captain and his joyous, beer-swigging colleagues on this Sunday evening are Warner’s thin edge and the points it brought them. What matters to the rest of us, even more powerfully perhaps, is that our ration of these matches is not reduced. Professional cricketers deserve nothing less.
Paul Edwards is a freelance cricket writer. He has written for the Times, ESPNcricinfo, Wisden, Southport Visiter and other publications