Lancashire 157 for 4 (Jennings 52*, Davies 50) lead Nottinghamshire 133 by 24 runs
In this bowlers’ season, no collapse has been more spectacular than Lancashire’s on their first meeting with Nottinghamshire in the opening round. Eight wickets vanished at Old Trafford for 15 runs, Notts seemingly so bewildered by their success that they then mislaid four themselves in making 10 for victory.
Less than a month later, Lancashire arrived at Trent Bridge with a wish to lance the boil. Nottinghamshire have gained such impetus from that victory that they are top and, in Jake Ball, have the leading wicket-taker in the country. Lancashire, fancied for a title challenge, are in the bottom two. One insane hour has set the season off on a course few expected.
Revenge remains far from certain after a first day fought out under skies as sleekly grey as James Anderson’s old hairstyle, of which more shortly. But Lancashire have a hard-won advantage. Notts succumbed for 133 in 47.1 overs and then Lancashire countered to good effect to lead by 24 runs at the close with six wickets intact. Keaton Jennings, beginning to resemble a batsman of substance again, was 52 not out at stumps.
For the fashionistas among you (this may be addressing a small audience as fashion and the county championship have never knowingly gone together, beige windcheaters rarely getting the attention they deserve), Anderson’s grey locks have already been dispensed with, replaced by something resembling his normal colour. For the first time in his career, it appears that a bowler beyond compare under grouchy English skies has sensed grey above him and no longer been entirely enchanted by it.
Anderson was unrewarded at lunch, Nottinghamshire seeing off eight economical overs, but he made incursions during a decisive spell in mid-afternoon in which Lancashire took three middle-order wickets for seven runs in 13 balls, first swinging the ball away from the right-hander Riki Wessels and then switching around the wicket for an even better outswinger to the left-handed Tom Moores, both catches for the stand-in wicketkeeper Dane Vilas. He later had his England new-ball partner, Stuart Broad, dropped off successive balls, which should test their relationship before the Test circus starts again.
Intermingled was Samit Patel’s latest comi-tragic run out. Last week, Patel ran out Ross Taylor and, to his great credit, looked the media in the eye afterwards and accepted his error. This week, he drove Anderson square on the off side and, presuming the ball would beat the field, set off for his celebratory trot to the other end where he would habitually tap his bat in the crease to mark his success. That did not reckon for the athleticism of Steven Croft, who intercepted the shot as Moores was drawn into the run. Patel, with a heavy heart, left his ground and set off on a hopeless jog to the bowler’s end.
The morning had belonged to Graham Onions. The former Durham seamer tabled a career-best 9 for 67 on this ground in 2012 and took three of the four wickets to fall. Steven Mullaney’s bottom edge fell to Liam Livingstone at second slip, another show of excellence from Croft – this time a catch at point – removed Chris Nash, and Onions brought one back to dismiss Taylor without scoring. Jake Libby’s demise to an excellent diving catch by Livingstone completed the morning.
That Lancashire hold a precarious advantage also owed much to a breezy half-century from Alex Davies, whose damaged thumb has caused him to concede the gloves, but whose 50 from 40 balls gave them a flyer. Of Haseeb Hameed, though, back in the side after a 2nd XI half-century, there is no happy tale to relate: a 13-ball duck – a strangle down the leg side, too – took his first-class tally to 40 in seven innings. There were once visions that he would bat inexorably for England long into the Test match future. Those days, for the moment, have gone.