Warwickshire 263 (Ambrose 70*, Barker 64, Parkinson 5-49, Smith 3-30) and 195 for 2 (Bell 55*, Trott 50*) drew with Lancashire 308 (Croft 100, Brown 61) and 266 for 8 (Livingstone 106*, Hameed 103)
A game that began on Monday morning with rain gusting across Emirates Old Trafford and the players sipping coffee in their dressing rooms ended in Thursday evening's gentle benedictive sunlight with many of those same players shaking hands after the match had ended in a draw which conferred honour on both teams. It was also a game which three young Lancastrians and their respective coaches will never forget
It had been, curiously enough, a batsman's day. This was odd because after 12 wickets had fallen on the Tuesday and nine on Wednesday, one expected more than five to tumble in the final three sessions of the match, especially on a wicket offering more turn, albeit not bounce, to the spinners.
That it was not so can be explained more by the contrasting skills of four batsmen, two of them making their way in the game and two others, Ian Bell and Jonathan Trott, who are probably beginning to consider what life may offer them when their playing careers are over. It was Bell and Trott who shared an unbroken stand of 111 for the third wicket to make sure their side claimed ten points from the game. The pair of former England batsmen, although Bell would not yet concede such a description, called on all their skills to neutralise the threat posed by Lancashire's 19-year-old legspinner, Matt Parkinson, and his off-spinning colleague, Arron Lilley.
There were soft hands aplenty and studious leaves. There were, of course, tucks off the hip by Trott and that back-foot cut-cum-drive by Bell where he leans back and plays the ball square of the wicket. Parkinson bowled 25 overs unchanged from the Statham End and eventually gained the confidence to bowl without a fielder on the leg-side boundary. There were also loud leg-before shouts but moral victories were the only variety Lancashire won. Bell and Trott both reached their fifties in the last hour and the draw was agreed with Warwickshire on 195 for 2 and six overs left in the game.
Outside Old Trafford people were going home, avoiding the attentions of the passionately intense and voting. In the middle and in the pavilion another cricket match was reviewed, analysed and put to bed. "Look, stranger, on this island now," wrote WH Auden, who knew a thing or two about demagogues.
In the morning session most of the Warwickshire attack stuck to the tight lines that brought dividends on this wicket but they could not prevent Lancashire's batsmen adding 96 runs to their overnight total at better than a run a ball. In the course of this accelerating progress, Haseeb Hameed, who does not do onslaughts, reached a maiden first-class hundred which brought pleasure to many thousands of cricket followers, by no means all of them Lancastrians.
Hameed had grafted in the best sense for 340 minutes and faced 291 balls when he tucked a ball from Rikki Clarke backward of square on the leg side and scampered the run that took him to three figures in his 17th first-class innings. He held his bat aloft as though it were a lance and was suddenly wreathed in happiness. This was what the freezing January coaching sessions were for; this gave meaning to the sacrifices. Hameed is "going to be a star", asserted Ashley Giles, Lancashire's director of cricket, later. Yes, he is, but this was a time to savour the moment and reflect on the past.
"I was pretty nervous when I was in the nineties," said Hameed, "and it was just a case of waiting for the right ball. As happy and as proud as I am, there are two people who are a lot more proud than me and that's my mum and dad. A lot of the credit goes to them, my dad especially, who has probably sacrificed his whole life for moments like that. Hopefully I can give him a lot more."
Hameed also spoke warmly about the achievements of his former schoolmate, Parkinson, who took his haul of wickets from the match to six when he had Varun Chopra lbw for 48 with a top-spinner. He also spoke of how batting with that uninhibited young hitter, Liam Livingstone, had taken the pressure off him during the sixth-wicket stand of 137 which took Lancashire from slight crisis to relative prosperity
One can see his point. Watching Livingstone bat with Hameed is rather like listening to Brian Blessed having an argument with Jacob Rees-Mogg. Each is effective in his own way. And so, after Hameed had been one of three batsmen to be dismissed in the same Clarke over, Livingstone exacted some punishment by whacking the seamer for a six over long-on and a straight-driven four to go to his own hundred off 115 balls with a dozen fours and a couple of sixes. Croft then declared, leaving Warwickshire to score 312 in what turned out to be 78 overs. Bell's batsmen never seriously considered taking on the challenge. They had fought hard and nobly for a share of this game and they were in no mood to squander their gains.