Paul Edwards is a freelance cricket writer. He has written for the Times, ESPNcricinfo, Wisden, Southport Visiter and other publications
Lancashire 305 (Bohannon 68, Davies 57, Kerrigan 4-60, Taylor 4-91) and 60 for 0 lead Northamptonshire 177 (Rossington 49, Kerrigan 45*, Bailey 3-32, Parkinson 3-49) by 188 runs
April advances and so does the cricket season. Though there is still morning frost in the hollows on the Moss between Southport and Burscough Bridge, the trees' delicate greening heralds the year's rapid transformation from dearth to plenty. Last Sunday Emirates Old Trafford was briefly covered in snow, yet on Wednesday morning Lancashire and Northants picked five spinners for this game, three of them specialists. Cricketers sometimes complain about the weather but what would our game be without three seasons' climatic variations, the lore behind the laws, the entrancements of difference? "Over the apparatus of the Spring is drawn / A constructed festival of pulleys from sky," wrote W S Graham.
The season is barely a week old and already it has produced a quota of surprises, often involving teams who would have been in Division Two had the 2020 season been played without the interruption of the pandemic. But this game, for all Simon Kerrigan's all-round excellence, (about which, more later) appears unlikely to produce further shocks. Northamptonshire, who were promoted on the final morning of the 2019 season, were ultimately outplayed on the second day of this game and Lancashire's openers had extended their team's 128-run first-innings lead to a flagrantly healthy 188 by the close.
That Dane Vilas's team should hold such an advantage is explained in part by the efforts of a tousle-haired, irrepressibly enthusiastic Boltonian, who this afternoon followed what may have been the most frustrating winter of his career by taking three fine wickets. The last of these, that of the Northants skipper, Adam Rossington, for 49, fell to a leg-spinner of such quality that it had folk harking back to the 1993 Ashes Test and another blond twirler. And just for those brief moments Matthew Parkinson was not flattered. The ball pitched outside leg and hit the top of off. It sent social media bonkers and one saw why.
Certainly the Lancashire leg-spinner deserves life to treat him kindly for a while. Selected either as a reserve for England's Test side or as a member of the one-day squads, Parkinson spent almost the entire winter overseas. He played just one game, taking nought for 16 off five overs when representing J E Root's XI v J C Buttler's XI in a 50-over practice match at Hambantota, a contest in which Ben Foakes played for both sides and Dom Sibley batted twice. It may not therefore come as much of a consolation to him that he has joined Jonny Bairstow (elected after the 2015 West Indies tour) as a member of the Gracie Fields Society for Neglected Cricketers. Parkinson's election is based on the fact that his treatment recalls the great Rochdalian's famous lament: he took his harp to the party but nobody asked him to play.
Joe Root and Eoin Morgan's reluctance was not shared by Vilas this afternoon. Lancashire's skipper called Parkinson into the attack when the visitors were already in the toils at 45 for 3 in reply to Lancashire's 305. No doubt delighted to be bowling in a four-day match for the first time since September 2019, Parkinson had Luke Procter caught by Josh Bohannon at mid-on for six and Saif Zaib pouched at backward short leg by Steven Croft for four. In the next over Tom Bailey took the first of his three wickets in ten balls and when Northants were 87 for 8 one wondered whether Lancashire would turn down the chance of batting practice in favour of enforcing the follow-on and maybe gaining another day's rest.
But such thoughts gravely insulted Northants' capacity to resist, even in the bleakest circumstances. More specifically they failed to take account of Kerrigan's ability to block an end up and play a few shots of his own while in the company of a more established batter. Nearly thirty overs later, after Kerrigan and Rossington had added 82 for the ninth wicket thereby removing any possibility of the follow-on, we had learned the tough lessons that often follow casual presumption. Parkinson's ball of the season and the run out of Ben Sanderson for nought ensured that Lancashire's frustration would not be prolonged.
It also allowed Lancashire's spinner to reflect happily on a day that had also seen him make a career-best 21 not out in the morning session. Those runs were accumulated rather stylishly during a last-wicket stand of 36 with Tom Hartley, whose own 25 also set a new personal mark. The stand was ended when Hartley swung Kerrigan to deep square leg and that wicket prompted some of us to ponder when, if ever, one club has helped in the development of two county cricketers, each of them skilled in the same precise discipline, who have then represented opposite sides in a first-class fixture.
Kerrigan last bowled left-arm spin for Ormskirk in 2017 and Hartley did so as recently as 2019, so this match is already a proud occasion for the Brook Lane club and also for the Liverpool Competition, the league in which it plays. For the umpteenth time, one wondered where first-class cricket in England would be without clubs like Ormskirk or the many others who understand their broader responsibilities to the game. Deep down the gurgler, probably.