<
>

Davies in fertile form in the Old Trafford garden

Lancashire109 (Livingstone 68, C Overton 5-47) and 152 for 2 (Davies 78*, Livingstone 57*) trail Somerset 278 (Elgar 113*, Leach 52. McLaren 4-76, Procter 3-43) by 17 runs
Scorecard

After a first day cluttered by a welter of wickets which offered little time to weigh the consequences of each dismissal the next three sessions of this game provided a fascinating contrast between a trio of opening batsmen.

The first of them, Dean Elgar, made 113 runs; the second, Haseeb Hameed, managed just seven; and the third, Alex Davies, ended the second day undefeated on 78, an innings which may yet help Lancashire avoid defeat or even, heaven help us, achieve improbably greater riches in a game Somerset have largely dominated.

Elgar's was the most impressive innings. His very fine unbeaten century was largely responsible for Somerset establishing a first-innings lead of 169. In fine partnerships with Jack Leach and Tim Groenewald, the South African Test opener nearly doubled his team's score and if Tom Abell's men do go on to win this game, Elgar will surely be hailed as the chief architect of their victory.

The least successful batsman was Hameed, who stroked one fine cover drive off Lewis Gregory before playing loosely and too far from his body at a ball on roughly fifth stump line and edging a catch high to Peter Trego at first slip. What was remarkable about Hameed's departure was not so much its occurrence as its manner. Rarely in his short career has this most gloriously correct of cricketers been lured into such error.

Young Hameed knows fine well that his vocation is not for the cowardly of spirit or the faint of heart. Batting at the top of the order is rather like sitting by a pond: if you stay there long enough a couple of ducks will come along. So it has been with Hameed, who was caught at the wicket playing expansively in Lancashire's only innings against Surrey and then pouched by Steven Davies when beaten by a fine ball from Josh Davey on Friday morning.

Two innings, seven balls, no runs. "It happens," all the game's good openers, including Dean Elgar, could tell the 20-year-old Hameed. "Cash in next time." But Hameed not only failed to observe that injunction on a sunlit Saturday afternoon, he did not give himself an opportunity to do so.

The possible consequences of Hameed's dismissal seemed clearer four overs later, when Luke Procter played inside a good ball from Gregory and had his off stump rocked back. At that point Lancashire were 23 for 2 and it appeared possible that their second dig in this match would be no better than their first when batsmen's innings often resembled the piles of bricks built with haphazard enthusiasm by children unversed in the niceties of balance: before long someone would kick them down or they would topple over by themselves.

However, Davies and Liam Livingstone averted this possibility with a patient and technically correct third-wicket partnership which had added 129 runs by the close and will be resumed tomorrow morning when the forecast is for cold and sunny weather, conditions which should continue to ease this Old Trafford pitch.

Davies, despite being handicapped with a back injury, displayed both defiance and technical accuracy in battling his way to another half century. Livingstone was able to bat with a more settled tempo on Saturday afternoon than he had chosen on Friday but some of his nine fours were also rich in panache while not sacrificing defensive tightness. Every innings Livingstone plays adds to his reputation and it will be fascinating to see what representative honours have come his way by September. The same, of course, can be said of Hameed.

That Lancashire's excellent fightback had not cleared the deficit by close of play is testament to a wonderful first session for Somerset in which they lost just one wicket in scoring 126 runs. The man out was Jack Leach, but by the time he bottom-edged Jordan Clark to Davies, Somerset's No. 10 had made a career-best 52 and few county tailenders have batted with greater aplomb in constructing their maiden half-centuries.

Leach hit eight fours, some of them sweetly struck affairs through the covers, while at the other end Elgar batted with exemplary care and made the most of being dropped on 86 when Ryan McLaren grassed a sharp chance to his left off Procter. Tim Groenewald helped Elgar add a further 37 before he was bowled for 20 by Jarvis and all this made rather grim watching for home supporters.

There was, though, interesting viewing of another sort available to Lancashire members during the morning; for Somerset's construction of a lead took place against the background of further changes to the architecture of this ground. Just prior to the start of play a bridge was hoisted into place connecting the old pavilion with the new hotel, which is scheduled to open its doors in July. It was a task requiring patience and accuracy, qualities which Elgar and Leach were to display in the cricket that followed.

But those interested in Old Trafford's current appearance can now look out on three rectangular constructions, all of them framed in scarlet livery: a players and media centre, a corporate hospitality centre - The Point - and a nearly finished hotel. And there is no end to the commercial opportunities afforded by the redevelopment.

For example, if Lancashire's hospitality suite to the left of the pavilion was sponsored by a bank it could be called, say, the NatWest Cash Point, which would rather encapsulate both its shape and purpose. The hotel is to be called the Hilton Garden Inn, a curious name really, given that no trace of vegetation can, as yet, be discerned. Fertility, though, clearly comes in many forms on this ground. On Sunday morning the hope is that a sizeable lead can be grown, although Somerset bowlers will be hoping to cut down such green shoots of recovery.