Paul Edwards is a freelance cricket writer. He has written for the Times, ESPNcricinfo, Wisden, Southport Visiter and other publications
Lancashire 95 for 1 (Davies 52) trail Yorkshire 159 (Duke 52, Bailey 3-6) by 64 runs
Spectators sit quietly and watch Yorkshire's partial recovery from 40 for 7. Some chat with friends who are nearby but not too near. Others drink beer and eat their sandwiches. One or two may momentarily take their happiness for granted. In the evening home supporters will see Lancashire's openers reassert their side's dominance with a 71-run stand and they may end their first sight of cricket on this ground in 617 days with a second, somewhat celebratory, pint. It will be a week or two before such commonplace behaviour ceases to be faintly miraculous.
For all that the cricket we saw will be recalled fondly by Lancastrians this was still a day when what happened outside the boundary competed with, and then complemented, what took place within it. This was something of an achievement given that a quite abysmal morning for Yorkshire's batters - yes, another one - was followed by a fine afternoon in which Harry Duke compiled his maiden fifty in only his second first-class innings and the last three batters helped him hoist the visitors' total to 159 all out at tea.
Yet wide-ranging judgements on the day seem particularly valid to a man who has watched a dozen games since last August, most of them in sepulchral stadia with only the players' comments for company. The echoes stayed with such a spectator, whatever his professional involvement; they reminded him his game was not complete.
Imagine, then, his joy when he arrived at Emirates Old Trafford this morning and noted that at least two Yorkshire supporters had made the trip across the Pennines for this 274th first-class Roses match. They draped a flag of St George over the balcony of their room in the Hilton Garden Hotel. There were two white roses in a couple of the quadrants and the words "Jane - Mel - Wrinklies on Tour" written elsewhere on the banner. By the time Tom Bailey bowled the first ball of the match to Adam Lyth the English standard had been joined by another Yorkshire flag and also one from Lancashire. At that stage there were people on over 30 of the hotel's balconies and another 2000 spectators scattered around the half of this mighty stadium that was open to them. They sat in tiny groups or in splendidly sensible isolation, a noun so recently freighted with anxiety.
Jane and Mel cannot have enjoyed their morning. Indeed, they may have augmented their wrinkles with furrows and the odd scowl as they watch their side waste winning the toss and collapse to 21 for 6 in the face of some high-quality new-ball bowling. Bailey took two wickets and barely conceded a run; Saqib Mahmood had Will Fraine caught behind by Dane Vilas for nought but deserved more rewards for a superb six-over spell.
At least three of the first six batters dismissed were complicit in their departures: Lyth drove Bailey to Danny Lamb in the gully; Harry Brook's run out was caused first by his being idle in answering Tom Kohler-Cadmore's call and then hesitating as if sealing an atrocious deal; Dom Bess steered Luke Wood to a joyous Lamb, who celebrated his second catch by having Kohler-Cadmore leg before for 10 in the next over. The Yorkshire opener had already been dropped twice in the slips and Lancashire were to put three more catches down but until Duke put on 77 with Steve Patterson, it didn't seem to matter. When Jordan Thompson was seventh out, fending Wood to Keaton Jennings at short leg, Yorkshire were 11 short of their lowest total at Old Trafford.
It should be noted that Patterson's team are without four frontline batters in this match. Joe Root is playing for England next week; Gary Ballance injured his calf on Tuesday; Dawid Malan is not playing for personal reasons which, given our ignorance of them, should be respected by default; Jonny Bairstow has been withdrawn by England, his employers.
Jonny Tattersall has been dropped and replaced by Duke, whose innings was easily the finest thing in his team's chastening day. Hesitant at first, the Wakefield youngster was soon coping with Lancashire's seamers much more capably than his senior colleagues. His three successive boundaries off Wood in the over before lunch took the total past fifty and his partnership with Patterson saved his side from trousers-down ignominy. Yorkshire's skipper also played his part, swatting Wood for a six over cover and a four through mid-on as Lancashire's attack briefly lost their way in mid-afternoon. Patterson was eventually bowled for 27 when attempting to sweep Matt Parkinson and Duke was caught down the leg side for 52 in the next over when trying to pull Bailey.
As the young Yorkshireman walked back to the dressing room he was given a warm ovation which he duly acknowledged. One saw almost at once that all this must be new to him but then one realised with a start that it must also have been fresh and unfamiliar to those doing the applauding. It was a day of reconnections.
Coad's 28-ball 32 took Yorkshire's innings to bare respectability although even that judgement seemed debatable when Alex Davies was hitting eight boundaries in his 52. Bailey returned figures of 3 for 6 from 14 overs and was neither ill-served nor flattered. Deep in the evening session Duanne Olivier had Davies caught down the leg side for 52 but Luke Wells and Jennings ensured they were no more unpleasant surprises for the home supporters, relatively few of whom opted to leave the ground early.
They chose instead to see Bess bowl the day's final over on a perfect late-spring evening. Last week, it was Bristol and Trent Bridge; this week, Old Trafford and Hove; next week, Headingley and Taunton. Gradually we are taking down the shutters that protected us from a world both familiar and strangely hostile. Whatever their loyalties spectators are rediscovering the poetry of the everyday, the simple beauty of the quotidian.