In the age of non-stop touring, a county season which very nearly fills a six-month window, and a T20 treadmill which just keeps on spinning, the best players in the world face one another with increasing regularity.
Jofra Archer's dominance of David Warner has moved from an Ashes series into a limited-overs series and an IPL season; Jos Buttler tempered his attacking instincts facing Rashid Khan last week after seeing his head-to-head record against him on the TV broadcast before walking out to bat; and Cheteshwar Pujara faced 255 balls from Pat Cummins in a single Test series in the Australian summer. Even team-mates at T20 franchises get used to facing one another: Kyle Jamieson recently revealed that Virat Kohli had volunteered to bat against him in the Royal Challengers Bangalore nets, just in case he wanted a dress rehearsal for the World Test Championship final.
But as a rainy day in Manchester loomed, the battle between Glamorgan's best batter and Lancashire's top bowler - two of the world's best in their respective disciplines - was a blank slate across all formats. James Anderson to Marnus Labuschagne: 0 runs, 0 balls, 0 dismissals.
The reasons were multi-faceted. By the time Labuschagne had come out to bat as a concussion replacement in the second Test of the 2019 Ashes, Anderson was done for the summer after pinging his calf on the series' first morning. Neither man has played in an overseas T20 league; Labuschagne has never played against a touring England side in an Ashes warm-up; and Anderson hasn't been involved in England's white-ball set-up since the 2015 World Cup.
The elements conspired to keep them apart for a couple of hours longer at Emirates Old Trafford. A hailstorm delayed the start by 25 minutes, and by the time Lancashire made their first breakthrough of the day, Saqib Mahmood rearranging Joe Cooke's stumps to bring Labuschagne out at No. 3, Anderson had already bowled a six-over spell in what was his first outing of the season.
But the main event arrived three balls after the lunch interval. Anderson steamed in from the Brian Statham End with three slips waiting, and was immediately probing away in the channel outside Labuschagne's off stump. The first ball was squirted away towards backward point, the second left alone, the third blocked firmly, and the fourth struck the batter on the back thigh as he misjudged the length.
The fifth ball Labuschagne faced from Anderson, at the start of the third over of the afternoon, was also his last. He shuffled across to cover his stumps and was forced to play a shot by Anderson's faultless fourth-stump line, with a hint of shape away off the seam. Labuschagne played innocent despite the slip cordon's celebrations, but Michael Gough's finger went up without hesitation. Anderson to Labuschagne: 0 runs, 5 balls, 1 dismissal.
Labuschagne had struggled for rhythm against Lancashire's three other seamers before lunch, taking 24 balls to get off the mark. Mahmood and Danny Lamb both beat his outside edge, and he was nearly bowled shouldering arms to the first ball he faced. He had been trapped lbw by Darren Stevens in his first game of the season, the day before Stevens' 45th birthday, and nicked off to a 38-year-old on Thursday - old age and treachery triumphant over youthful exuberance once again.
It would be unwise to make any wise-cracks on that subject within Anderson's earshot, mind you. "You get to a certain age and people begin saying you have to start slowing down or you're losing the ability to do your job," he said in an interview with the Guardian this week. "Why should I start slowing down?"
He had initially planned to play his first game of the season two weeks ago, away against Kent, but a tight calf muscle delayed his return. He looked fully fit on the first day of this match, returning 1 for 22 from his 13 overs; there were a couple of looseners early on, but he appeared to find some rhythm later in the day despite the rain's repeated interventions.
The majority of Anderson's balls were bowled to David Lloyd, who batted as fluently as could be expected on a stop-start day after Glamorgan surprisingly chose to bat first under gloomy skies. Lloyd was watchful against Anderson but looked to score against the rest of the Lancashire attack - hitting Mahmood for four fours in an over after lunch - and scored heavily either side of backward point. It was cruel for him that Glamorgan were made to bat for 4.1 overs in the evening session in between the showers: he was caught behind four balls before the close, looping one up to Dane Vilas while playing half a shot against a Luke Wood short ball.
Labuschagne's dismissal leaves Anderson on 990 first-class wickets, and given the gradual decrease in the number of first-class matches played in most domestic competitions worldwide, it is quite possible that he will be the last man to ever reach four figures. Lancashire may hope he can do it wearing their colours, most likely at Wantage Road in two weeks' time, but England's first Test of the summer against New Zealand at Lord's would be a fitting occasion.