Lancashire 288 for 3 (Jennings 150*; Croft 104) against Yorkshire
And yet as Yorkshire’s players emerge, battered but resolute, from the most self-destructive winter any county has experienced, it is not fanciful to believe that the received traditions of Roses matches can encourage them as they get down to the business of winning cricket matches. For Steve Patterson’s team to bag a trophy this year would be a wonderful response to the media folk who gathered at Headingley last winter in the hope of watching the county kill itself. What those honourable citizens did not notice was that there were many people in Yorkshire – and many from the South Asian community – who knew what had gone grievously wrong at the county but were determined to play their part in putting it right and restoring the White Rose to dominance. It was their team, too.
Can Roses matches assist such an admirable project? Only to a degree, of course. Such work is wide-ranging and will take years to complete. But the best elements of the rivalry should inspire cricketers from whatever backgrounds on both sides of the Pennines and it was strangely fitting that having been asked to bat on a fairly slow wicket, Lancashire should manage only 53 for 2 in 30 overs of nowt-asked, nowt-given cricket this morning. The run-rate was 1.76 per over and “Ticker” Mitchell would have loved it.
Two further chances went down in the second session and Jennings was the fortunate batsman on each occasion. When he had made 70, the Lancashire opener nicked Dom Bess high to the left of Adam Lyth at slip; on 85 he blasted a drive back at the right hand of the bowler, Patterson. Neither was held but it would be absurdly unfair to think Lancashire’s dominance of this day’s cricket was merely a consequence of Yorkshire failings, egregious as they were early in the afternoon.
Both Jennings and Croft showed exemplary judgement in the morning and they came into lunch with 21 runs apiece. They then feasted on the tripe they were given without ever forgetting that centuries are built as much on the balls left alone or defended as those that are smashed to the boundary.
Both centuries were well-earned and both were significant in different ways. The general feeling at Emirates Old Trafford is that this will be Croft’s last season as a player. But we have been here before and each time Lancashire officials have been preparing the presentation clock and Emirates voucher, the veteran all-rounder has replied with performances showing his value. This was his second century of the season and his first in Roses matches; it included all the characteristic pulls and cuts as well as a heave for six over midwicket off Joe Root, who bowled four overs and otherwise fielded at slip all day. Croft eventually fell lbw for 104 to Haris Rauf with the second new ball and it was heartening to see many in the stands at the Kirkstall Lane applauding him. As for his employers, maybe they should hold the eulogies.
Jennings, though, batted even more fluently. Yorkshire bowlers must have been driven scatty by his well-judged cuts through gully or his pulls to square leg when the ball was a trifle short. Having survived an opening hour in which Thompson removed both Wells and Josh Bohannon, he progressed smoothly towards a century that links him to a cricketer as unlike him as it is possible to imagine.
For when he reached three figures with a clip for two off Rauf, Jennings became only the second Lancashire player to make centuries in three consecutive Championship innings against Yorkshire. The first was Swinton-born Geoff Pullar, who made two hundreds in 1959 and another in 1960. Jennings, of course, is an athlete, whose nutrition, exercise routines and recovery from injury are closely monitored. Not every cricketer would describe his county’s physio as “an angel on legs” as Jennings referred to Sam Byrne, who helped him recover from a badly torn calf muscle last autumn.
Pullar was a very fine batter – his average after the last of his 28 Tests was higher than his first-class mark – but he tended to view athleticism on his own terms. For example, the general perception is that players in that era were happy to play six days a week; Pullar, though, was never the keenest fielder, especially on wet days. During delays he used to sit in his vest and put his feet up in a corner of the Old Trafford dressing room. As often as not, ‘Noddy’ – he was once found watching the children’s TV programme in a team hotel – would be reading a popular J T Edson Western novelette and would curse roundly if an improvement in the weather interrupted his literary studies. “Look at that, Tommy!” he exclaimed to his mate, Tommy Greenhough, “The bloody rain’s stopped and we’ll have to go out there again.”
Paul Edwards is a freelance cricket writer. He has written for the Times, ESPNcricinfo, Wisden, Southport Visiter and other publications