Yorkshire 251 for 6 (Ballance 74, Leaning 54*) v Lancashire
James Anderson is occasionally seen as one of England’s grumpier cricketers but he can hardly have failed to be content with life as he began his sixth over on the first morning of this 270th Roses match. Having already caught Adam Lyth at third slip off Tom Bailey and bowled Alex Lees playing no stroke for nought, Anderson was probably looking forward to interrogating the techniques of Gary Ballance, the country’s most in-form batsman, and Peter Handscomb, an Australian with whom he will hope to renew hostilities in the winter.
But that is where the tidings of joy ended for Lancashire, England and the bowler himself. As he was about to bowl his 34th ball of the day Anderson pulled up in his delivery stride and immediately collapsed on his back in the middle of the pitch clutching the right side of his groin. Umpire Nick Cook quickly summoned Lancashire physio, Sam Byrne, with whom Anderson left the field. Thus a match which takes pride in its insularities acquired national significance within an hour of it beginning
Glen Chapple, the first team coach at Old Trafford, confirmed that Anderson had suffered a tight groin and would be assessed again on Saturday morning to see if he needs a scan. Chapple’s counterpart, Andrew Gale, was in admirably generous mood, saying that “for the sake of the country’s cricket, no one wants to see Jimmy go down,” but Gale’s magnanimity did not, of course, prevent Yorkshire’s batsmen looking to make hay on a day when the sun rarely shone at Emirates Old Trafford.
Those efforts were led, predictably enough, by Gary Ballance, for whom this spring has been a season of greater than green abundance. Yet by the close, Yorkshire cause’s was being advanced by Jack Leaning and Andrew Hodd, whose unbroken 73-run partnership for the seventh wicket had probably justified their captain’s decision to bat first, even if that decision was prompted by a fear of batting last.
Indeed, this first day at Emirates Old Trafford was notable for a scoring rate and a measure of justified caution which would have been familiar to the watching Richard Hutton, Yorkshire’s newly-appointed president. Hutton’s own era was notable for its Verdunesque sieges against the White Rose’s closest rivals, albeit that such rivalry also concealed warm friendships and a common approach to the incomparable game.
To a degree Yorkshire and Lancashire need and deserve each other and this was grittily apparent as the visitors proceeded carefully to 71 for two at lunch with Peter Handscomb and Ryan McLaren, both of whom were playing in their first four-day Roses match, tussling for advantage. McLaren, who looks a better signing with every day’s cricket he plays for Lancashire, won that battle when he had Handscomb lbw for 29 in the sixth over of the afternoon.
Yet as they pondered a score of 90 for 3, Yorkshire supporters could be encouraged by the way their captain was batting and especially his neat and accurate footwork. Last summer Ballance scored 780 Championship runs despite often appearing moored to the crease; this year he has three centuries and two fifties to his credit and his movements are altogether more fluid and purposeful. Perhaps he has watched his Yorkshire and England colleague, Joe Root, in action and adapted the injunction of the popular songster, Robbie Williams, to the effect that “if you can’t get a run and your best friend can, it’s time to move your body”. More likely, of course, Ballance has tweaked his technique to good purpose in the manner of fine batsmen. As a result, he leads his county in more ways than one.
All of which only increased the mild shock caused when Ballance was dismissed for 74 by a wide ball of no menace from Bailey, the wicket-taking capability of the delivery only being revealed when the batsman slapped it carelessly to Stephen Parry at mid-off. That wicket was the prelude to Lancashire’s best period of the day since Anderson had conjured one back off the seam to trim Alex Lees’ off stump. Tim Bresnan hit Simon Kerrigan for a straight six but was bowled for 13 by one from McLaren which kept slightly low. Azeem Rafiq had managed only 16 when he pulled an unusually short ball from Parry straight to Steven Croft at midwicket. That left Yorkshire on 178 for 6 but Leaning and Hodd’s shot selection was the best of the day and they looked in little trouble as they shepherded their side to a slight superiority at the close.
Yet the relative gentleness of the evening session and the sense in which it took its place in a long tradition did not expunge the equally pleasant memories of the early morning when Anderson had run in under full sail and the cricket had been watched by 4000 schoolchildren, all of them attending the Lancashire Foundation’s Schools Open Day. The children were given Lancashire Lightning flags and nearly all were flourished as Croft led his players out for the morning session. Not since Pyongyang displayed its latest batch of missiles have thousands of red flags been waved with so much zeal; certainly such enthusiasm was a contrast to the seething silence which once characterised the first mornings of Roses matches. God knows what Emmott Robinson would have made of it.
Paul Edwards is a freelance cricket writer. He has written for the Times, ESPNcricinfo, Wisden, Southport Visiter and other publications