Lancashire 299 for 7 (Hameed 114, Procter 79, Brooks 3-51) vs Yorkshire
The head is perfectly still, the stance comfortably compact. The bat is held in the air, some thirty degrees above the horizontal; it rocks, poised for potential employment, in the batsman's hands. As the bowler moves into his delivery stride the rear foot moves back a shade and then the front foot goes forward a little, but these movements betoken merely readiness, not commitment.
Yet the stroke, when it is played - if it is played - is full of conviction and one could be lured into the delusion that no other shot could have been attempted to that particular delivery. If the ball is left alone, the bat describes an arc as smooth as Giotto's famous circle.
For many people, not all of them Lancastrians, the gentle budding of Haseeb Hameed's career has provided a backcloth to the summer. The first day of the Roses match saw a further flowering of this quietly precocious talent. For while medals were won in Rio and goals were scored across England Hameed completed his third century of the season with a perfectly safe, lofted cover-drive off Adil Rashid.
For all that Yorkshire's seam and swing bowlers capitalised upon some careless batting to take six wickets, one of them Hameed's, for 61 runs in a game-changing evening session, this day was still made memorable by the stroke-play of a young man who takes quite as much care over his backward defensive shots as he does over his cover drives and may even take equal pleasure from them.
Supporters travelling from across the Pennines and even some home supporters may take a different and equally valid view, of course. The dismissal of Alviro Petersen to what became the final ball of the day completed eighty minutes' cricket in which Andrew Gale's bowlers had shown why Yorkshire remain many pundits' favourites to retain their title. They understand that even when sessions are lost, days can be salvaged or even won.
The limpness of Petersen's dismissal, playing on to Jack Brooks for 32, completed Yorkshire's recovery and there was little surprise that Brooks celebrated his third wicket in 29 balls by wheeling back to the Lancashire supporters in the pavilion, cupping his hand to his ear and even pointing to the name on the back of his shirt.
Only ninety minutes previously, Lancashire had been 238 for 1 and there was even a possibility that the home side would amass a sufficiently big total to obviate the necessity of batting again on a pitch which looks likely to take increasing turn. "Luxury!" thought the four Yorkshire seamers, as if echoing the famous Monty Python's Flying Circus sketch, and they proceeded to mock such foolishness with some high quality bowling, not all of it with the new ball.
But Brooks was not the first cricketer to coax a warm reaction from the Emirates Old Trafford crowd this balmy Saturday. When Hameed reached his hundred quite shortly after tea, he swished his bat down before him in the modern fashion. He took the applause which came from all sides of the ground and reserved particular attention for his close family, who were sitting in the Red Rose Suite.
He had hit 14 boundaries in the 189 balls he had needed to reach his landmark and by no means all of them had been signature cover-drives and opening batsman's deflections to third man. There had been straight drives off Rashid, who did not have his best day but may yet play a crucial role in this game, and there had been cuts off Tim Bresnan and clips through square off Brooks. Just as significantly, Hameed had shown that the tempo of his run-scoring is increasing and that he is beginning to understand how to work the ball around, even when facing an attack of Yorkshire's quality. "You start to learn to adapt to different situations and learn when to put the foot on the accelerator and push on. That comes with experience and hopefully it's going in the right direction," he said.
However, just as illuminating, arguably more so, was the view of the Yorkshire skipper Andrew Gale, especially when expressed in the middle of a Roses match. "Hameed is one of the best young players I've seen in a long time," he said. "He's an old-fashioned opening batter who occupies the crease and didn't get out of his shell all day. He just played beautifully.
Great batting is defined by age, magnitude and circumstances. Before he went to the wicket to face Ryan Sidebottom and Jack Brooks on a high-clouded Saturday morning 19-year-old Hameed had already become the youngest player in Lancashire's history to score a thousand first-class runs. He had reached that mark 321 days sooner than the previous record-holder, Michael Atherton, and in 23 innings, many of them played on sappy April pitches against First Division attacks. It is less than a year since he made his debut.
During Hameed's 24th first-class innings he became Lancashire's leading scorer in the County Championship this season, although he and Alviro Petersen are battling day by day for that honour. During his 86-run opening stand with Tom Smith and a most fluent 152-run partnership with Luke Procter, whose own 79 was a innings studded with excellent drives, Hameed offered evidence which confirmed the view of the Lancashire coach, Ashley Giles, that he will play Test cricket in less than four years.
Yet when he does so, he will come up against few attacks with greater craft and guile than Yorkshire's. As if aware that his side may be facing a total that would prevent them winning the game, Bresnan used the old ball to good effect, first by tempting Procter into a drive that only gave a catch to Andy Hodd, and then by taking a return catch off Hameed when the opener top-edged a pull. By then, the Lancashire batsman had become the first teenage opener to score three Championship centuries in a season.
Forty-five minutes later, when Steven Croft and Liam Livingstone had also been winkled out cheaply by the Yorkshire attack, he perhaps realised even more fully the value of his own wicket. Then again, Hameed had better get used to the fact that his will be the scalp that opponents prize most highly.