Lancashire fail to adjust to four-day demands

Hampshire147 for 5 trail Lancashire149 (Crane 3-27) by two runs



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Nothing if not courteous, Lancashire’s batsmen left it to each other to score runs on the first day of this game; nothing, if not careless, most of the recipients turned down their invitations.

Ryan McLaren’s team thus surrendered the opportunity afforded them by winning the toss and having first use of a sanded pitch. Hampshire’s bowlers, whether seam, swing or spin, seized their own opportunities gleefully and Lancashire’s total of 149 looked insufficient well before James Vince made 40 off 46 balls in the evening sunlight.

But if Vince’s cover drives and glides are pleasing on the eye, his batting does not always suggest permanence and Hampshire’s No 4 perished an hour before the close when he skied a pull off Kyle Jarvis to Stephen Parry at midwicket. Indeed, Vince was one of five batsmen removed by Lancashire’s bowlers in a long evening session at the end of which the home side’s deficit was only two runs.

Everyone was left to reflect on a day in which a total of eight top-five batsmen had reached double figures but only two had made more than 30, none passing 50. A rather short game is thus in prospect and perhaps a close one but hardly a contest which suggests that four-day batting is flourishing at present.

Such an assessment probably takes insufficient account of a Rose Bowl pitch which is already offering bounce and turn and it certainly pays miserly credit to the bowlers on each side.

Yet perhaps the batsmen’s problems are also a consequence of the fact that they have played no first-class cricket over the past month. Some have played only T20 and Liam Livingstone’s heave across the line to Kyle Abbott just after lunch certainly seemed more like one of the desperate remedies required by the short form.

But Livingstone was by no means the only occupant of Glen Chapple’s crowded naughty step; Dane Vilas’s wild cut to a ball from Ian Holland and Jos Buttler’s loose push to a delivery from Fidel Edwards which snaked through the gate were also out of keeping with the requirements of the day. Indeed they were lowlights of a long period either side of lunch in which Lancashire lost all their wickets for 110 runs.

But the impact of T20’s placement in the current schedule is wider than that; it should be noted that 53 wickets fell on the opening day of the three current Division One games. Helpful pitches and fine bowling may explain some of them but the impact of spending a month manufacturing weird but effective shots to good balls may also have a part to play. Perhaps the proper role for the glorious entertainment that T20 often has yet to be found.

Lancashire Fail To Adjust To Four-day Demands

Haseeb Hameed found no release from an unproductive season © Getty Images

For some the problem is of a rather different nature. Deprived of long-form first-class cricket and deemed surplus to requirements in the T20 stuff, some Lancashire and Hampshire batsmen have played second team or Premier League cricket; others may even have been reduced to asking their dads to bowl at them in the back garden but since this is how Haseeb Hameed learned the lessons that helped make him a Test batsman in the first place, perhaps no one should complain. It is rarely wise to mess with Boltonian legends.

It was noticeable, however, that the most tranquil and productive period in Lancashire’s innings was the first hour of the morning when Hameed and Alex Davies, neither of whom have played T20, were adding 39 runs in 14.2 overs. That partnership ended when Hameed, having scored 6 off 39 balls, drove at a wide outswinger from Edwards and gave a waist-high catch to Jimmy Adams at second slip. The England opener has yet to rediscover the blissful rhythms of Rajkot and Mohali. The selectors will have to carry on watching him hopefully for a while yet.

The similarly redoubtable Davies went on to make 36 before he was beaten by a fine ball from Liam Dawson and edged a catch to Sean Ervine at slip. The remainder of Lancashire’s innings suggested little but impermanence. Shiv Chanderpaul, the one batsman for whom adhesion is an article of faith, was run out by Buttler when called for a sharp single to Mason Crane at backward point.

Lancashire then lost their last five wickets in 11 overs and their last three in eight balls. By mid-afternoon skipper Steven Croft may have been regretting his decision to drop himself for this game.

Crane took three of the last five wickets but just as valuable to Hampshire’s effort was Dawson, who bowled 17 accurate, probing overs either side of lunch at a cost of only 42 runs. He, as much as Abbott, Edwards or Gareth Berg, deserved the applause of the home supporters in the Rod Bransgrove pavilion.

Hampshire delight was quelled a little by the loss of both Jimmy Adams and Lewis McManus to Lancashire’s new ball bowlers inside the first nine overs of the home side’s innings. But Vince revived their spirits and Dawson – not needed by England but invaluable to his county – was still there to steady the ship after George Bailey had been caught at slip off Matt Parkinson for 22. It is advantage Hampshire but not by much.

Paul Edwards is a freelance cricket writer. He has written for the Times, ESPNcricinfo, Wisden, Southport Visiter and other publications

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