Paul Edwards is a freelance cricket writer. He has written for the Times, ESPNcricinfo, Wisden, Southport Visiter and other publications
Lancashire 411 for 2 (Jennings 102, Wells 97*, Davies 84, Bohannon 74*) vs Yorkshire
Nobody who has lived through the past 18 months needs to be reminded that there are times when cricket doesn't matter a damn. All the same, anyone at Headingley on the third afternoon of this Roses Match were reminded of that truth in the most brutal fashion when Yorkshire's Dominic Leech suffered a horrific injury to his left leg when he lost his footing on damp ground and slid into the concrete base of the Western Terrace.
Leech had been chasing round the boundary from long-on to deep midwicket to stop a four and had slapped the ball back into play when the accident occurred. The 20-year-old was immediately in agony and was attended by medical staff from both Lancashire and Yorkshire for 15 minutes before being taken from the stadium on a stretcher by paramedics and thence to hospital in the car of Yorkshire's physio, Kunwar Bansil. At 2.35 the players left the ground to take an early tea and shortly afterwards a statement was issued saying areas of the playing surface had been deemed unfit and unsafe.
As it turned out the umpires, Ian Gould and Nigel Llong, made two inspections before play was eventually abandoned at 4.25. During the time between Leech's injury and the abandonment questions were raised as to why the umpires had deemed the ground fit for play to start at noon and why an injury beyond the boundary had prompted the decision that the playing area was unfit two hours after precisely the opposite judgement had been reached.
But in a month when simplicity will become a dull watchword this was an example of one of cricket's unavoidable complexities. Although rain had fallen for twelve hours with barely a break on Monday, Headingley was ready for a twelve o'clock start, only for the seam bowlers' boots landing on the same spots in their run-ups to bring up water, especially in the area that lies in the shadow of Emerald Stand. To link Leech's injury to the decision to come off the field is a good illustration of the problems encountered when one applies the principle of "post hoc, ergo propter hoc" too rigidly. Apparently Llong had already raised the issue of the footmarks with his colleague and the situation was being carefully monitored when the injury occurred.
It was also significant that the judgement of the umpires was firmly supported by the both counties' head coaches. Although delighted that his team are dominating this match - visiting teams do not get to 411 for 2 too frequently at Headingley - Lancashire's Glen Chapple endorsed Gould and Llong's judgement.
"We had a lot of rain yesterday and we got here this morning and the ground was still wet," he said. "The best I can give you is that maybe the heat has brought more moisture up and it's gone from being just playable to not playable. It's disappointing for the players and supporters but unfortunately the ground's not fit at the moment.
"The umpires are doing their job and it's their call to make. None of us have been down the end that's causing the problem and I fully trust the umpires to make the right call. The players and our supporters will be very disappointed but the main thing from all this is that you don't want to see someone injured badly and we all hope he recovers quickly."
Like his Lancastrian counterpart Andrew Gale's first thought was for Leech, who had received his second-team Yorkshire cap before yesterday's play and whose bowling was being watched by his father and girlfriend. However he also understood the nuanced judgement that the umpires had had to make
"You have to feel for the lad," he said. "It's the first game he's played in the first team this year. But Dom's a tough cookie - he's from Middlesbrough - and he was in a lot of pain. It was sad to see. Hopefully he'll be ok.
"You have two of the most experienced umpires in the country, so whatever decision they make is what's right by the game. They felt that as the day went on and there was more traffic on that side of the pitch and the run-ups, it was bringing water up. Umpires with their experience probably didn't want a situation where someone like a Jimmy Anderson runs in and rolls his ankle. They didn't think it was fit for play and fair play to Lancashire because they're bossing the game and they seemed okay about it."
Yorkshire have encountered problems at the Emerald Stand End of Headingley before, most notably in April 2018 when the game against Essex was abandoned without a ball being bowled, and yesterday's events will clearly stiffen the intention to get the problem solved. Shortly after the abandonment the Club issued a further statement which ended as follows:
"Analysis of the outfield at that end has previously taken place and has identified issues with a layer of thatch that can cause a build-up of water on the surface following heavy rain-fall. The Club had originally planned to get the outfield re-laid prior to the 2021 season but unfortunately difficulties arising due to the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in this being delayed. The Club intend on completing this work at the end of this season."
All of which leaves us with the Roses Match, the details of which are rightly overshadowed on days such as this. But it should perhaps be noted that Luke Wells and Josh Bohannon extended their third-wicket partnership to 156 in the 23.2 overs we were allowed and that both batsmen looked in almost complete command. True, Bohannon was dropped on 11 by Harry Brook at first slip off Leech but he later slapped Jordan Thompson over cover for six and pulled the same bowler for four a few balls later, shots which not only took the Boltonian to his half-century but also raised the remote chance that Lancashire might pick up a fourth bonus point.
As it was Lancashire had to settle for a score of 342 for 2 after 110 overs. It is the first time since the game in 2011 at Hove that Yorkshire have gained no bowling points from a match in which they had inserted the opposition and bowled their full ration of overs. If this gave Steve Patterson something to ponder, he soon had something else on his mind when Gould warned him for running on the pitch. By the end of the day, though, such cautions were as nothing when set against the health of a fine young cricketer.