Kerrigan's six underlines his potential
England Lions 315 and 158 for 3 (Bairstow 73*, Root 70) lead Australia A 277 (Cowan 99, Klinger 66, Kerrigan 6-59, Tredwell 3-93) by 196 runs
They are curious things, the wheels of fortune and opportunity. Just 27 days ago Lancashire's Simon Kerrigan was bowling to Kevin Pietersen in a County Championship match at Guildford. Pietersen made 234 not out off 190 balls while the young spinner's figures were 23-0-152-1.
Immediately after that brutal Friday, Kerrigan sought advice from a bevvy of slow bowlers, salved his wounds and got on with the job of being a professional cricketer. In the same few weeks Pietersen has made a Test century studded with many jewels of unarguable brilliance and also bared his soul a couple of times. As a consequence it is a matter of major public debate where his cricket career is heading.
As yet no one is even sure whether Kerrigan, 23, will play international cricket at all. But at least for an hour or two on Thursday afternoon he offered an exciting alternative to the Piet-and-Tweet shemozzle for cricket followers whose passion is stirred more by what happens on the field than by what occurs in cyberspace.
Employing most of the skills beloved of spinners through the ages - drift, change of pace, flight and, not least, hard spin itself - Kerrigan took six wickets in 73 balls to help bowl out Australia A for 277 on the third day of the first unofficial Test at Old Trafford.
Kerrigan, the Lancashire slow left-armer, had sent down 13 wicketless overs before he had Tim Paine athletically caught by Jonny Bairstow at slip for 19, and he ended the Australian innings he had helped to wreck with figures of 6 for 59 from 25.3 overs. Kerrigan is still learning the many skills of his craft and not so sullen art but he has the knack of getting good players out and doing so when it matters.
Yet if the young twirler snares the headlines and the plaudits, Kent's James Tredwell also deserves a massive amount of praise for helping England Lions gain a first innings lead of 38. Indeed, by close of play Tredwell had even taken on the role of nightwatchman helping Bairstow extend the Lions overall advantage to a healthy 196 going into the last day of the game.
In the morning session Tredwell's offspin bowling had been of a very high-class. He made the first breakthrough when he extracted a lot of bounce and a smidgeon of turn from the Manchester wicket to have Australia A skipper Ed Cowan caught behind off the glove for only the second 99 of his first-class career.
Twelve overs later Tredwell had Michael Klinger snaffled by short leg Joe Root for 66. Hitting Kerrigan for a couple of sixes on Wednesday evening had no doubt given South Australian Klinger plenty of kicks; predictably, therefore, he was a victim of Root, 66.
Despite Tredwell's persistence, Australia A were reasonably placed on 207 for 3 at lunch and many were talking about the injustice of Cowan's excellence not being rewarded with a century.
An hour later all well-intentioned sympathetic thoughts had been abandoned as Kerrigan bagged three wickets in ten balls, including Test players Mitchell Johnson and Nathan Lyon with successive deliveries. Johnson gave a bat and pad catch to Root while Lyon was lbw on the back foot when completely deceived by a quicker ball.
The innings was in free fall and no one had thought to pack a parachute. The end, from an antipodean perspective, was predictably grisly; the predominantly Lancastrian crowd, on the other hand, are never shy about enjoying Australian misfortune and they cheered every one of Kerrigan's successes. For a moment or two they even forgot that Glen Chapple's team had dropped into the relegation places in Division One of the County Championship.
Cowan's men collapsed from 214 for 3 to 231 for 8 in twelve overs; Tom Cooper's unbeaten 26 staved off further embarrassment but his partners, Jon Holland and Jackson Bird, both fell to Kerrigan; Holland stumped by Craig Kieswetter, Bird taken by Bairstow at slip. It was eye-catching stuff, although Kerrigan's successes were, in the view of his partner at least, no more than his due.
"Simon's picked up six wickets today and he fully deserved to," said Tredwell, who had never even met him before the Lions squad gathered for the game at Old Trafford. "He bowls at a nice pace which makes it hard for the batter because there's not much time to change your decision, particularly on a wicket offering a bit of turn.
"Once it breaks and turns you want to be beating the batsman in his decision-making. Simon can also bowl cutter deliveries which on a real dry wicket can be really beneficial because on that surface some turn and some don't. He can bowl in a variety of different ways on a variety of different pitches and he seems to have shown that even in this game."
And in the last session of the day there was yet more joy for the Manchester crowd, albeit that it came from two precociously talented Yorkshiremen. Bairstow and Root added 128 for the second wicket in less than 30 overs, both batsmen displaying a marvellous audacity and range of shot against a flagging attack.
Bairstow has had a Test call already this summer. The day when Root dons a full England sweater cannot be too long delayed. For all that he was dismissed for a 104-ball 70, slicing Holland to Liam Davis, Root's driving and timing had offered further evidence that he is a special talent.
By the close England were 158 for 3, Eoin Morgan having been caught without scoring pulling Bird in the third over and Samit Patel taken at slip 15 minutes before stumps. On the final day the Manchester crowd have the prospect of seeing Bairstow resume on 73 not out, Cowan bat once more and England's spinners in full cry on a turning wicket. You know something, it may be even be more fun than tweeting.