Lancashire127 for 0 (Wells 70*) trail Warwickshire 315 (Sibley 142*, Parkinson 3-60, Bailey 3-61, Hassan 3-82) by 188 runs
In Season 1, Episode 20 of The West Wing Leo McGarry, the White House chief of staff, is determined to expose the hypocrisy of Congressmen regarding drug-enforcement. “We play the full nine innings at this level, Stuart,” he informs a senator’s PA, “Tell your friends.” If we overlook, for the moment, the dreadful faux pas of placing a baseball reference in a report on a cricket match, a comparable resolve has informed Lancashire’s cricket in the first month of this season.
And perhaps some bad light was perversely appropriate. As these words are being written, a large number of Lancashire cricketers and some old players are gathering in the pavilion for a dinner to mark the 50th anniversary of the county’s famous Gillette Cup semi-final victory over Gloucestershire in which David Hughes defied light that gets worse with every passing year to hit the off-spinner John Mortimore for 24 runs in an over. The anniversary of that famous game actually occurred on July 28 last year but the dinner had to be postponed because of Covid.
No matter. The folk attending that dinner will ignore the rain that is pelting down outside and they will tell tales of the days when Annie Walker ruled The Rover’s Return, old footballers served in pubs and women wore hats in church. Some of the yarns they exchange may even be true although one would not be shocked to hear it asserted that they don’t make bad light like they used to.
That semi-final victory against Gloucestershire has become as much a part of Lancashire folklore as Francis Thompson’s run-stealers, Reggie Spooner’s style and Jack Simmons’ appetite. Yet some of those dining in the pavilion will also have watched today’s cricket and they should be full of admiration for Wells, whose drives through the off-side tortured every Warwickshire seamer with the exception of Olly Hannon-Dalby, who bowled 11 overs for 13 runs.
Both Wells and Jennings are 6ft 4in left-handers but they complemented each other perfectly on this Friday afternoon and the only pity was that our day’s cricket was shortened by 35 overs, first by bad light, and then by drizzle, which became so heavy that Matt Merchant and his team had the square covered long before play was abandoned at 5.20. “I can’t stand the rain,” sang a Lancashire steward, although, heaven help us, he’s hardly had any of the stuff to dislike this spring.
Actually it had been getting gloomy for some time and ten minutes later it was raining. The spectators went home and one hopes they appreciated the fine batting they had seen. For his part, Wells is delighted to play for Lancashire now, but he was born in Eastbourne and it was strangely moving to watch a cricketer raised in Sussex bat so beautifully on what would have been Alan Ross’s hundredth birthday.
Perhaps only one person in Emirates Old Trafford was aware that this was the centenary of one of the finest cricket writers and prose stylists that ever composed a sentence. But maybe we should let that pass on this soaking Mancunian evening. The members are returning and soon they will be shawled in their memories. Meanwhile, a member of the catering staff is laying the table in preparation for the festivities. On a whim, she turns to her mate: “But, tell me,” she says, “Who is this David Hughes, anyway? Has he been on Strictly?”