Ball one: Streams from the Lake District

Lancashire took YouTube streaming to a new level with the coverage of their match against Sussex on Friday. Crystal clear pictures, multiple camera positions, a director who understood the game and commentators not only with their own monitors so they could talk about (and not across) replays, but with a dedicated camera so we could see them interacting with each other and with the players.

This column has praised the streams in the past, but also criticised them for their inconsistent quality across the counties. A new standard has been set by Lancashire and the 17 other counties should now follow suit.

Ball two: A cricket ground of outstanding natural beauty

Of course, it helps if the pictures are as outrageously beautiful as those from a ground on the borders of Lancashire, Yorkshire and Cumbria, but seems to exist, like Brigadoon, in a liminal space. Set in the lea of glowering, but benign, fells with dry stone walls for boundary boards, it’s too good to be true surely?

One marvels at the villages and small Italian towns visited so fleetingly by the cyclists of the Giro d’Italia and wonder why England (if not Scotland and maybe not Wales) has nothing to compete with their almost casual photogenic charm. And then Sedbergh comes along and trumps the lot. As for so much else in life, if only one has eyes to see.

Ball three: Teenage picks, so hard to beat

Sussex fielded nine List A debutants (with the fact that there was no List A domestic cricket last season well down the list of reasons) and one feared for them getting a shellacking from an experienced Lancashire XI in the way university teams would regularly in the old Benson & Hedges Cup. At 13-2 and 134-5, thoughts turned to the long, hot journey up and back from the south coast (and Manchester, to be fair) endured by players and fans for what looked likely to be a truncated match.

Wicketkeeper, Ollie Carter (19) thought otherwise and found a partner in Danial Ibrahim (16), and the pair constructed a partnership of 59 in 11 overs full of good sense, cool-headed shot selection and hard running, Ibrahim going on to post another partnership, 72 in the company of old head Will Beer. What marked the kid’s performance for this viewer was the impression that he was anchoring the late order, probably going at 60 or so – in fact, Ibrahim scored his 46 runs at 82, with barely a shot in anger. That is the mark of a very fine player twice his age.

Lancashire v Sussex.
Lancashire v Sussex. Photograph: Barry Mitchell/Rex/Shutterstock

Ball four: The kids are all right

With Lancashire 115-7, still 156 runs short, the game was done, Sussex winning something with kids. Joe Sarro (19) had got that half-bat of movement that served Glenn McGrath so well, Henry Crocombe had channelled a bit of Robin Martin-Jenkins’s nagging line and length, Danial Ibrahim had shown he could bowl like a young Stephen Waugh as well bat like him and Archie Lenham, on his 17th birthday, had flighted his leg breaks fearlessly. These four teenage musketeers each had at least one wicket against their names and each deserved the extraordinary win that was coming – surely?

Ball five: Lamb to the slaughter

Danny Lamb, only 25 himself but looking old enough to be the father of most of his opponents, reached into the culture of the league pros who have stalked the northern outposts of the English game since those dry stone walls were laid and dug in. He found a partner in another hard man from Preston, Tom Bailey, and set about stemming the bleeding and then pushing on. Bailey departed for 46, but that only brought another Lancastrian, Liam Hurt (nominative determinism eh?) to the crease for a cameo that got the home side over the line, Lamb 86 not out, the indisputable man of the match if for no other reasons than his rivals were but boys.

Tom Haines (22) skippering this greenest of sides, will know that the wheels fell off in the last half hour, Travis Head and Will Beer will have had a few quiet words on the long coach journey back to Hove and a few parents might have received tearful phone calls. The lads will, of course, take the positives away.

The scorebook records two points to Lancashire in the group stage of the Royal London One-Day Cup, not that it seems to matter to many at the ECB or in the media and certainly not at another competition who have just scooped up Lancashire’s winning captain for themselves thank you very much. But the Sussex lads should read this attempt to capture the emotions of watching their match, read Paul Edwards’s lovely report and reflect that though we have over a century of watching cricket between us, I doubt that Paul or I would hesitate in putting this match in the top five we have ever seen.

And that’s not because “our” team won, it’s because, when it was needed more than ever, a troupe of teenagers played the game hard and fair, lost with dignity and pride and provided lifelong memories for anyone fortunate enough to see their efforts. They won’t know yet how much that means – but they will learn in the years to come.

Ball six: Thank you

Call it facile, call me shallow, but I was all set to write one negative ball about this match, five about the other matches and drop a hundred snarks en route. There’s the venue’s inevitable underlining of the privileges of the public school system, the sepia-tinted celebration of a biscuit tin representation of an England that never really existed, the inconvenience of all that travel and lack of facilities for members surely abused enough this season, the crowd as absent of diversity as any in the 1930s.

But county cricket can overcome the significant challenges that sit beneath those criticisms and the other issues is must face from within and without the game. You see a match like this, especially if you’ve just started a period of self-isolation (as had your correspondent) in these strange days indeed, and it makes you feel immeasurably fortunate to have been bequeathed this gift and immensely grateful to the players who honour it with their skills, their heart and their decency. It was an afternoon that made me happy.

Gary Naylor is the host of the podcast The 80s and 90s Cricket Show and you can follow him on Twitter.


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