Recent Match Report – Lancashire vs Sussex, County Championship Division Two, 1st Innings

Recent Match Report – Lancashire vs Sussex, County Championship Division Two, 1st Innings

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Lancashire 149 for 1 (Davies 72, Jennings 53*) lead Sussex127 (Salt 40, Parkinson 6-23, Maxwell 4-41) by 22 runs

People long in thrall to cricket sometimes watch two games. The first is the one before them; the second comprises moments from past matches, fragments of idolatry, to borrow the title of David Foot’s wonderful book. As the Sussex openers began their side’s innings this high-clouded morning at Old Trafford there was every reason for Lancashire supporters to succumb to illusion. Before them, Phil Salt was cracking boundaries through midwicket off Richard Gleeson and Graham Onions; yet in a heartbeat it was a warm Sunday afternoon in the late 1960s and Lancashire were winning one of those new-fangled 40-over games, their efforts directed by this diminutive bloke who didn’t bowl and only batted around seven in the order.

Jack Bond died on Thursday evening. He was mourned by every Lancashire player under whom he had played and his passing was marked by a minute’s silence before our cricket got under way at Old Trafford. Less than an hour and a half hour later Sussex would collapse to Lancashire’s spinners, losing five wickets for 11 runs before lunch, all ten for fifty and being bowled out for 127 forty minutes after lunch. Matt Parkinson, a leg-spinner of great ability and remarkable potential, took a career-best 6 for 23 and Glenn Maxwell, as if assuaging World Cup woe, 4 for 41. Yet the members who stood to applaud Parkinson had also stood in perfect quiet over three-and-a-half earlier in the red-bricked pavilion when they might have been remembering two other slow bowlers, Jack Simmons and David Hughes, throttling the life out of batting orders on distant afternoons from dreamy childhood summers. “Lancasheer, la la-la laaa, Lancasheer, la la-la laaa.”

Parkinson has more natural ability than either Simmons or Hughes. Presented with a used pitch offering only a little turn, he puzzled most of Sussex’s batsmen and dismissed half a dozen half of them. The googly which David Wiese let hit his pad was a highlight and the efficiency with which Parkinson removed Sussex’s tail was Rashidesque. That said, Sussex hardly helped themselves. Too many balls requiring commitment, either on the front or back foot were met with indecision. Varun Chopra, having made 32, played for turn but didn’t get to the pitch and the ball went straight on. By then Salt had fallen to Maxwell for 40 when sweeping the off-spinner straight to Josh Bohannon at deep square leg. Sussex were 77 without loss the moment before that wicket fell. They were bowled out less than 30 overs later. Their players must be tired of hearing their coach, Jason Gillespie, use the word “unacceptable” but the solution is in their hands.

Dane Vilas needed to do little more than bring on Parkinson and Maxwell and keep them on. Bond would still have enjoyed watching it all, partly because he was the proudest of Lancastrians and partly because he probably reckoned skippers should have a few easy days to make up for those when they have to think non-stop for six hours and make literally thousands of decisions.

Bond knew what the hard years and tough days were like. He had learned his cricket in the 1950s when at least one Lancashire captain was effortlessly malevolent and the committee were reminiscent of barons administering Henry II’s feudal estates. The offer of the captaincy, when it came in February 1968, was less than effusive. “We’ve just had a committee meeting and they want you to take the captaincy on a caretaker basis while they look for somebody else,” the new skipper was told by the secretary, Jack Wood.

Ben Brown is as loyal to Sussex as Bond was to Lancashire and he might have appreciated some advice this afternoon. A first innings of 127 poses its own problems but things got worse for Sussex when Luke Wells dropped Alex Davies at third slip on 4 and Chris Jordan was forced to limp off with a leg injury after eight overs. The rest of this Saturday saw Lancashire build a position from which they should win the match

Home supporters watched it all and luxuriated in their side’s complete dominance. The flags, all of them flying at half-mast, unfurled themselves in the brisk breeze. We played with the thought that these spectators might be recalling other Saturdays of greater glory, early Septembers at Lord’s, for example, when Bond led Lancashire to three successive Gillette Cups. He skippered a side filled with players of international class but he was the man who held everything together and who reminded any potential Billy Bigbollocks that no cricketer could win a game by himself. His Lancashire teams won five trophies in four years

Bond was a great captain because he had been shown how not to do it and because he was a good, generous man who understood men in all weathers. A devout Methodist, he always preached the value of community and pitched his team on the side of the supporters and against the hierarchy. “We had an unbelievable never-say-die attitude and it was born of dissatisfaction,” recalled David Lloyd. “Jack got us together and it was almost us against them but the ‘them’ were the committee. We were such a tight unit and we all had the red rose on our blazer and, crikey, did that mean something.”

The six martlets mean just as much to players like Luke Wells, Ben Brown and Will Beer. Sussex are in a desperate run of form at the moment and they will do well to wrench themselves out if it sufficiently to win promotion. Lancashire’s openers, displaying proper professional ruthlessness, displayed no pity at all. Davies’ two thumping drives off Abi Sakande took Lancashire into a lead on first innings but next over Sussex received blessed relief for their woes when he was caught behind for 72 when trying to cut a short ball from Delray Rawlins. But a Wagner opera could not have set the tone of this day more strongly and Keaton Jennings collected his fifty just before the close

Bond was a small man but, as Neil Fairbrother pointed out, he was a giant of Lancashire cricket. His players loved him but they might not have put it those terms. Then again, they didn’t need to. The current Lancashire team, none of whom were near to being born when Bond last played, also stood this morning. They know the former skipper, partly because his words are on the dressing room wall: “The future of this great club is in your hands.”

But maybe the most touching sight was that of David Lloyd, standing silent with his memories. And crikey, that meant something.

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