Procter and Hameed enhance Lancashire's feel-good
Hampshire 109 and 22 for 1 trail Hampshire 456 (Procter 137, Petersen 81, Hameed 62, Best 5-90) by 325 runs
Old Trafford on a blissful Monday morning in May. The leaves on the trees girdling the red-brick Town Hall are green with all the delicate effrontery of an English spring.
Inside the ground, a medium-pace bowler runs up to the wicket and delivers a ball which passes perhaps nine inches outside off stump. The willow-thin batsman lets the ball complete its journey while holding his bat extravagantly high, as if excluding the merest possibility of outrageous accident. The bowler shrugs, turns and walks back to his mark while the batsman plays his leave again, as if something about the original execution displeased him. In the early stages of Ken Dodd's marathon one-man shows he encourages his audience to chant: "Time matters not one jot." One can rather imagine Haseeb Hameed nodding in fervent agreement.
Certainly the cricket seemed held in gentle suspension when Lancashire's Hameed was occupying the crease for nine minutes short of five hours in taking his score to 62 in the first session of this game. The pace quickened markedly after lunch as Alviro Petersen hit 13 fours in a pedigree 81 off 85 balls to extend Lancashire's lead beyond 200 and reinforce their dominance. But Petersen is 17 years older than Hameed and has played exactly 200 more first-class matches. He is stronger, cricket-fitter and knows his game far better. At the moment Petersen has more of everything…except time.
Comparisons between the two players were therefore of limited value and they threatened to deflect attention away from the career-best 137 made by Luke Procter on a day when Lancashire extended their first-innings lead to a colossal 347 before they were bowled out for 456. The home side's late clatter of wickets was caused largely to a splendidly defiant spell from Tino Best, who took four wickets in 23 balls, finished with 5 for 90 and greeted every success with a lovely explosion of Barbadian joy.
This was still far and away Lancashire's day, though, not least because they claimed the important wicket of Jimmy Adams, caught at second slip by Karl Brown off James Anderson, in the hour before the close. They are playing very much like a team bubbling with self-belief and this is obvious in all their disciplines. Petersen built on Hameed's work and Procter combined well with both his partners in century-plus stands.
Hameed deserves credit for opening the Lancashire innings with impressive solidity and for the smooth grace with which he drove the ball through the covers. Although only 19 years old and with more than 15 cricketing summers before him, he bats as if every innings is precious. Hameed plays a minimum of 12 shots every over, six to the balls bowled and then at least one after each of those six, as if he is still searching for a shot so perfect that it defies experience or description. He leaves the ball as a matador might manoeuvre a bull, the bat a muleta before it becomes a sword.
What Hameed needs to do is develop the ability to work the ball around in the manner of Procter who spent much of the morning pushing ones or twos and keeping things moving The stance of Lancashire's No. 3 may remind one of an arthritic rent-collector trying to see under a door of a late payer but he knows his strengths and he is revelling in his new responsibilities.
Indeed, it seemed that the many Lancashire supporters at Old Trafford would be greeting at least two centurions this run-soaked afternoon but it was not to be. Hameed pushed forward to Mason Crane's penultimate ball before lunch and edged a good leg-spinner to James Vince at slip.
Simon Barnes once wrote of cricket as a wonderful metaphor for death and one imagines that each of his dismissals is accompanied by a sense of mild bereavement for Hameed. At one stage it seemed nip and tuck whether, if Hameed was to score his first century for Lancashire, he would do so before the county completed the building of their new hotel But such frivolous speculations suddenly became as nothing. Hameed departed, smacking his bat against his pad in an abyss of disappointment. Lunch had become funeral meats and they will have tasted no sweeter to the young Prince of Farnworth than they did to his Danish counterpart.
The cricket in the afternoon session only deepened the woe for Hampshire as 146 runs were piled on in 33 overs. And only a flint-souled Jesuit would have no sympathy for Hampshire at the moment. Deprived for varying lengths of time of Fidel Edwards, Gareth Berg and Chris Wood, they are trying to make do and mend until Sean Ervine and Reece Topley are fit to wear the colours again in around a fortnight or so. James Tomlinson must feel like one of the last Texians at the Alamo, albeit that Hameed currently lays the gentlest of sieges.