Lancashire 275 for 5 (Vilas 67*, Jones 52) v Durham
It is tempting when watching cricket on grounds like Sedbergh to toy with the notion that life might always be like this: that one's days might be spent in the stern, benevolent shadow of the Howgill Fells while batsmen like Dane Vilas face bowlers such as Chris Rushworth under typically Cumbrian, cloud-tossed skies. School years are not always the best of one's life but Lancashire and Durham supporters may eventually reflect on their days watching this match and judge them among the richest of their summer.
That it might be so is partly explained by the discipline of Cameron Bancroft's bowlers, who enjoyed success when they pitched the ball up rather than digging it in on a wicket offering bounce and carry. It might also find account in the bells of St Andrew's which summoned us joyously to our cricket in the morning; or in the sun which raced across Baugh Fell in the evening. It also has something to do with the generosity of the school and its staff, who cannot do too much to make this great event memorable.
Yet this day's cricket was only given proper shape after tea once Liam Livingstone was leg before to Nathan Rimmington for 35 and Vilas began his fifth-wicket partnership with Rob Jones. Lancashire were 141 for 4 when Livingstone played across the line; Jones was at that point unbeaten on 27. The 23-year-old had displayed patience beyond his years yet the arrival of his captain seemed to imbue his batting with fresh urgency. It is often so with inspirational captains like Vilas, who himself showed more intent than his team's top order had managed, albeit when the ball was newer.
Rather than waiting to receive deliveries, Vilas looked to meet them, thus eliminating some movement. There were the usual powerful drives and clips through midwicket and they somewhat disconcerted a Durham attack who had hitherto set the day's agenda. A Lancashire innings which had burned slowly and been filled with honest labour - only 65 runs came in 32 overs during the afternoon - suddenly acquired fresh life as Vilas demanded that Jones be ready to run quick singles.
The partnership had yielded 87 runs when Jones was pinned on the back foot for 52 by Rushworth, who had earlier bowled Keaton Jennings for 11 with one that kept low. But Rushworth was the only Durham bowler to take more than one wicket on this first day. He had Steven Croft dropped by Alex Lees before he had scored and the reprieved batsman was unbeaten on 29 when play ended in a gentle evensong of defensive strokes and watchfulness. It has been Lancashire's day and it has also been Sedbergh's
The only problem in the whole day was certainly not of Sedbergh's making; nor indeed, it is fair to argue, was it of Lancashire's, whose enterprise in taking a game to an area in the north-west from which it recruits many players should be commended. No, the stramash occurred when a charabanc hired to give home supporters free transport to the game arrived at the ground with well over an hour to spare but missed its turning and found nowhere to park. The driver, instead of letting his passengers get off, gave them a tour of Cumbrian byways for around 50 minutes, at one stage even returning south down the M6. One wonders what Francis Thompson, that great poet of Lancastrian cricket, might have made of it.
"It is little I repair to the matches of the Northern folk
'Cos my own red coach will never slow.
It is little I repair to the matches of the Northern folk
And we've passed this pub six times before, I know."
Fortunately, when the Old Trafford Forty-Nine were allowed to escape their incarceration, they could at least enjoy some resilient Lancastrian batting in a couple of sessions during which both sides engaged in the reconnaissance so characteristic of cricketers on fresh fields.
Having progressed, not with hazard, to 71 for 1 at lunch, Lancashire lost Alex Davies for 38 in the over after the resumption when he could only glove a fine lifting ball from Brydon Carse to wicketkeeper Ned Eckersley. And Lancastrian problems deepened when Haseeb Hameed, after making 24 with his customary diligence, was drawn forward by a fine ball from Ben Raine and edged a catch to Bancroft at second slip.
Livingstone settled into one of his more patient innings, yet more evidence of his determination to develop his red-ball game. Jones joined him and the pair plainly steeled themselves to rebuild the innings from 81 for 3 on a pitch which is a credit to the school's groundsman, Martin South. The crowd at Sedbergh, some of whom had queued for 45 minutes before the gates opened, gave themselves to their cricket. For all the racket of modernity there remains a sense of timelessness at a venue which saw its first cricket deep in Victorian England and whose famous Knowles pavilion has celebrated its 106th birthday.
Winder and Crook, the two fells closest to the ground, remained clear. Both had been shrouded in cloud on Saturday evening. Eventually even Baugh Fell doffed its cap of mist in honour of the occasion. And we are to have three days more of this stuff.