Lancashire 204 for 7 (Livingstone 55, Brown 54, Bresnan 3-24) beat Yorkshire 178 for 7 (Root 92*, Edwards 3-33) by 26 runs
"This is an Altrincham service, the next station is Old Trafford." The Metrolink monotone did nothing to reduce the excitement in the steaming carriage. When the tram cruised to a halt, passengers burst out on to the platform like grapes spilling out from an over-filled plastic bag. Lime-bibbed attendants marshalled a crossing normally deserted for four-day games. Lowry's "Going to the Match"? Yes, maybe, although there were far more pastel shades than in the famous painting and the spectators had to walk around 500 yards less than at least some of them do in winter. It was no difference in one respect, of course. Money, thought the cricket ground, money. This is something we can sell.
And it took less than an over before the vast commercial power of T20 was plain once again. Martin Guptill swept Joe Root's first ball of the game for four and Alviro Petersen pulled the final delivery of that same over for six. Yet Guptill and Petersen's batting was merely the gentle overture to the thunderous percussion of a tall 22-year-old right-hander from Barrow whose 23-ball 55 was not only his county's quickest short-form half-century but also catapulted him into the chaotic firmament of T20 cricket. This Friday evening may be remembered as the occasion when Liam Livingstone swept back the curtain and stood on one of the game's biggest stages.
In company with Karl Brown, who batted fluently enough to make a comparatively pedestrian 54 off 38 balls, Livingstone added 98 to Lancashire's total in 8.2 overs. Ben Coad and Liam Plunkett were lifted into the crowd for sixes; Adil Rashid, who bowled too short, was siege-gunned over square leg. Livingstone also hit six fours on an evening when former Test cricketers were excitedly trumpeting his potential on social media.
When Livingstone strolled off the field, having been caught at mid-off by Coad off Plunkett, Lancashire were 129 for 3 in the 13th over. Rapid twenties by Jos Buttler and Jordan Clark lifted the Red Rose to a formidable 204 for 7 in 20 overs. Only Tim Bresnan, fortified by experience and enriched by variation, kept any sort of check on the scoring rate and finished with 3 for 24. Coad did little wrong but his three overs still went for 36 runs. The crowd, noisy and pitiless, loved it.
So it little mattered that this was a T20 match between counties who began the night with 100% records nobody wants. Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Durham and Worcestershire are hardly teams the suits at NW8 think about when they ponder a revamp of short-form cricket but one or other of the four had done a number on a Northern powerhouse over the previous fortnight. That made no difference to Lancashire's preparations. There were 18,000 reasons why both the team and the commercial department had to be ready for this game. "Angels we have heard on high / Tell us to go out and buy," observed the American satirist, Tom Lehrer. And, indeed, a Roses Blast is Lancashire's Christmas evening.
And by the end of the evening it was Lancastrian faces that were shining as they received the present they wanted. Root did his best to spoil the festivities by making 92 off 51 balls but none of his partners except Plunkett, with whom Root added 76 for the sixth wicket, could keep him company. Lancashire's spinners were as disciplined as Yorkshire's had been wayward. Arron Lilley dismissed Jonny Bairstow caught behind by Buttler for 18 when there seemed little evidence the ball had hit the bat. Bairstow seemed to protest loudly, perhaps too loudly. Most of the crowd enjoyed it all hugely.
Yorkshire finished the game 26 runs shy of their rivals' total but the margin seemed bigger than five big hits. Root, whose strokeplay remained gloriously untravailed, grew increasingly frustrated with life in general and cricket in particular. He is a proud Yorkshireman and is developing into a great cricketer. Losing will never come easy.
And as this rapid drama unfolded deep into the floodlit evening the tills continued to rattle. A gallery of fast-food franchises encircled the stands. Crates of bottled Wainwright ale rattled across walkways as though drawn across cobbles. A new stand had been built with Emirates baseball caps on each seat. Anyone catching the ball when wearing one of these scarlet caps won a three-day trip to Dubai courtesy of Lancashire sponsors. At least three sixes were whacked in that direction but they were either dropped or crashed into a different sponsor's board.
The only area without a stand was the crane-thronged building site. In that gap there will, in time, be a huge new hotel, its size and style matching the Point, Lancashire's corporate hospitality hub. The pair will dwarf the beloved old pavilion like twin pincers of profit. "Money talks, so listen to it," sang 10CC, a Manchester band. And on Friday nights like this cricket, quite rightly, pays serious attention.
The 18,000 spectators watched it all, many of them in a state of riotous delight. Beating Yorkshire on a warm Friday evening in June? Good times never seemed so good. So they stood and applauded Steven Croft and his high-fiving players as they made their way off Old Trafford. They cheered too, until the echoes of their cheers rang like the last tinkle of a cash register in the warm Manchester evening.