Yorkshire take charge despite Livingstone's grit
Yorkshire 308 (Wagner 4-75) and 77 for 3 lead Lancashire 196 (Livingstone 60*) by 189 runs
For all that Steven Croft's bowlers took three important wickets on the second evening of this game, we may be in Gary Lineker territory if Lancashire win the 256th Roses match. Lineker famously promised to present Match of the Day clad only in his underpants if Leicester City won the Premier League and one or two visiting zealots may be tempted into similar sartorial rashness in the hope that their batsmen can chase down whatever total they require in the fourth innings at Headingley.
The odds against Lancashire winning do not encourage such pledges. After a day in which 14 wickets fell on a pitch offering inconsistent bounce, Yorkshire have a lead of 189 and Andrew Gale's side bat very deep indeed. It may be that Lancashire will need to score the biggest total of the game in order to achieve a win that would extend their lead over Yorkshire to 32 points. A match's last innings rarely achieves such heights and the wise money is probably on these rivals being left level on points, with only Lancashire's three wins deciding the order in the Division One table.
And if Lancashire do lose this game, they will probably conclude that their fate was decided by a 26-over spell either side of lunch on this second day. In that period they declined from 46 for no wicket to 92 for 7 before their last three wickets added a further 104 runs, with Liam Livingstone confirming his reputation as one of the doughtiest finds of the season by making an unbeaten 60 off 83 balls.
Yorkshire's seam bowlers hunted as a magnificent pack to destroy their opponents' best batsmen yet the truth that may niggle Lancastrians is that for the best part of an hour their openers, Tom Smith and Haseeb Hameed, had played this high-quality attack with watchful ease. Smith had hit four boundaries, the best of them a gloriously free-flowing straight drive off Tim Bresnan in just the third over of the innings, which seemed as much a declaration of intent as a way of getting four runs.
Hameed, as is his splendid wont, approached things in quite another way. The Boltonian's first ball, also from Bresnan, lifted off a length and he played it quite brilliantly between slips and gully for a single. In its way that shot more than equalled Smith's four and it set the tone for a fascinating hour's cricket. Bresnan later bowled a full-length ball which Hameed squeezed to the third man boundary. Bresnan scratched his head; Hameed scratched his guard. Bresnan had better get used to that.
The scoring rate may not have matched that on other grounds but what did that matter? In the time it took Jack Shantry to get from 50 to 100 at Worcester Hameed progressed from 10 to 11 at Headingley. None of the spectators in their red-rose fleeces gave a stale Eccles cake. Hameed used to play his club cricket at Farnworth Social Circle and they certainly do things differently at Piggott Park.
This was hard-fought cricket played during a morning session in which the sun was fighting a losing battle against a grey sky. It was watched in perfect contentment by two sets of supporters who possessed layers of sensible clothing, layers of experience and nurtured a deep layer of loyalty to a particular rose. And very soon it was those sporting the famous eleven-petalled white flower who were by far the happier bunch.
The rapid disintegration of Lancashire's innings began when Smith's attempted cover drive off Steve Patterson only steered the ball to Gary Ballance's safe hands at backward point. It accelerated when a full-length ball from Bresnan tempted Hameed into an unconvincing drive. Adam Lyth did the honours at second slip. And Yorkshire's fun really got under way when Luke Procter played across the line to Brooks. Peter Hartley's finger went up and the bowler careered off towards midwicket in a fashion he has made his own. Lancashire lunched on 68 for 3. In retrospect, it was as though the blokes operating the guillotine had nipped out for some goat's cheese and a glass of Claret.
On the resumption Croft's side lost four further wickets for 24 runs in 13 overs. Yorkshire's seamers can clearly be a democratic bunch and they each claimed a single success. The best ball was that bowled by Bresnan which lifted a shade, took the edge of Croft's bat and gave a catch to Jack Leaning at third slip. Other batsmen were far more culpable and by the time Lancashire were 92 for 7, Smith's 26 was still his team top score.
Livingstone, though, is a gritty beggar and, joined first by Neil Wagner and later by Kyle Jarvis, he shared stands of 34 and 48 which saved both blushes and the follow on, though it is doubtful whether Yorkshire would have enforced it. The No. 7's shot selection was excellent and his execution committed. He reached his 50 off 73 balls when he pulled a long hop from Rashid for six but the Yorkshire legspinner had by then begun a seven-over spell which cost 37 runs but also claimed the last three wickets.
Indeed, Rashid's current speciality is dismissing lower-order batsmen. An over-enthusiastic young vet docking a puppy could not show more eagerness to remove a tail. Wagner was lbw for a dozen when attempting to hit to leg; Jarvis, who is having a fine match, was stumped by Andy Hodd for 33 and Simon Kerrigan was leg-before on the back foot.
Lancashire conceded a lead of 112 and by the close Yorkshire had extended that advantage quite usefully with Lyth making 44 not out. Wagner, whose company would be welcome in the game's trenches, removed both Leaning and Ballance with fine deliveries and celebrated with Brooksian enthusiasm. The New Zealand seamer clearly believes his team have a chance of victory. Neutrals would probably disagree. But what the hell use are neutrals at a Roses match?