Of summer, and beauty and community... and cricket

Durham 291 (Borthwick 64, Collingwood 50, Anderson 3-58) need 247 runs to beat Lancashire 204 and 333 (Procter 122, Hameed 53, Stokes 3-50, Borthwick 3-98)

To appreciate the full perfection of this day's cricket, it may be useful, just for a moment please, to recall this ground in December: the grass is tussocky and barely green at all; the outfield is marked out for junior football games; there are dishcloth skies and lowering dusks; and crows are perched in the bare balsam poplars like black commas, punctuating the winter.

Now a Monday in July and summer is suddenly emerging from grey bedragglement. The sycamores at the Grosvenor Road End stand as if saluting its tardy arrival In the middle Haseeb Hameed and Luke Procter are building the 114-run partnership that will take Lancashire into the lead. From the direction of Harrod Drive, Ben Stokes is running in, determined to win the game for Durham and prove his fitness for the Manchester Test. But for all that Stokes and Borthwick may be in the selectors' minds, this is not an international occasion. It is Lancashire and Durham badges which proliferate along with those of fine local clubs: Ormskirk, Fleetwood Hesketh, Sefton Park.

Then Hameed, having taken 14 runs off a frolicsome four balls from Graham Onions and passed fifty for the sixth time in 15 innings this season, arches back but can only fend a fearsomely nasty short ball from Stokes to the substitute fielder, Jeremy Benton - almost a utility cricketer? - at third slip. Hameed, his sadness momentarily infinite, troops off without waiting for Rob Bailey's finger. He receives a warm round of applause and the crowd settles again. Blue pastels and panamas are almost a uniform in the marquees. Petersen opens his account with a swept four off Borthwick, who is getting ever more joy from Grosvenor Road. There is a rattle of crockery as lunchtime approaches.

Dreams may, indeed, take their time to arrive and be gone in a casual glance but that is no reason not to enjoy the reverie, be it a day at the cricket or the scent of a once-familiar perfume. Decembers come soon enough.

But this day held its flawlessness through the afternoon session and on into the evening. A sip of Manzanilla before lunch Petersen was leg before to Borthwick when attempting to force the ball to leg and that dismissal heralded a Durham fightback on the resumption. Bowling from the Harrod Drive End, 19-year-old Adam Hickey, he of Benwell Hill CC, took his first Championship wickets when Steven Croft underclubbed a drive to Borthwick at mid-on and Karl Brown prodded him to Keaton Jennings at short-leg. Poor Brown is struggling badly at the moment and it is sad to see. .

Those reverses left Lancashire with a lead of just 121 and only five wickets in hand but Tom Moores proved his mettle first by driving his ninth ball, bowled by Borthwick, for six and then by accompanying Procter to his second century of the season. Frankly Lancashire's No3 needed all the nursemaiding that was on offer. Already he had nearly run himself out twice, once when simply dawdling and once, on 73, when his misunderstanding with Croft was unpunished thanks to Hickey's fumble.

Procter, though, is a true fighter and he has developed a method which suits him. True he crouches in his stance not so much like a fierce tiger about to pounce as an aged butler about to keel over. But like others with bizarre comportment at the wicket - Michael Yardy, Shivnarine Chanderpaul - his technique works for him and when he plays his cover-drives and pulls, the execution is as classical as Palairet could have wished. A scrambled single was called by the alert Moores and Procter sprinted to the bowler's end before giving a little leap of joy and holding his bat aloft to all and to sundry. He had batted for four minutes less than five hours and he may have played an innings which sets up a victory.

The crowd stood to Procter when he reached three figures and they stood again nine overs after tea when he returned to the pavilion having made 122 off 282 balls. They applauded as well when the details of his innings were announced over the public address system for this was a day when people seem determined to relish every good thing. One saw their point.

Two overs after Procter was out Moores failed to make his ground when called for a single by Kyle Jarvis. It says something about the 19-year-old's sangfroid during his second first-class innings that a run out seemed his most likely mode of dismissal. He had made 35 and had looked the part of a Division One cricketer. On the final day of this game, he will keep to Simon Kerrigan and Matt Parkinson on a turning pitch. Every day offers young Moores a new test, a new adventure and he looks as if he is enjoying every dashed minute of it.

When Moores was out Lancashire's lead was 196, competitive perhaps but nothing like the 250 for which Ashley Giles was looking. That was all but achieved thanks to a 27-run stand for the ninth wicket between Kerrigan and Nathan Buck and then thanks to Buck levying 16 runs off four balls from Borthwick, one of the sixes sailing over the Indoor School. Unlike the enjoyment derived by the crowd from this day, that ball is gone for over.

Stokes ended the innings when Parkinson was caught at short leg but, as a bowler anyway, the all-rounder does not look quite at his fighting weight. Whether his batting is ready for the challenge of Mohammed Amir and Yasir Shah…well that, as Alan MacGilvray used to say, "is for tomorrow."

This evening spectators can smile ruefully at their sunburn and reflect on their day's cricket. Tennis players are on their courts now but the light is still crystal-bright at a blessed Trafalgar Road. On the patio there is excited chatter and more clinking glasses as people discuss the several glories of the day. Someone is belting out "Flower of Scotland", although God knows why. On second thoughts, there should be songs.