Manchester, August 13 - 16, 2016, Specsavers County Championship Division One
494 & 232/3d
(T:367) 360 & 188/0

Match drawn


Hameed stacks up landmarks before Yorkshire's strange call

A day that began with the acclamation due to a new young champion ended in a somewhat mystifying draw

Lancashire 494 (Hameed 114, Clark 84*, Procter 79, Jarvis 57) and 232 for 3 dec (Hameed 100*, Smith 87) drew with Yorkshire 360 (Lees 85, Gale 83, Jarvis 4-70) and 188 for 0 (Lees 114*, Lyth 63*)
A day that began with the acclamation due to a new young champion ended with many spectators questioning the tactical judgement of the current champions after the 269th Roses match had ended in a somewhat mystifying draw at Old Trafford. However, since cricket is, above all, a team game, let us leave the glittering talent of Haseeb Hameed for later consideration and proceed immediately to the issues that were puzzling some spectators as they left the ground on Tuesday evening.
The facts are these and it is important to keep a tight grip on them: in the morning session Lancashire scored 162 runs in 23 overs before declaring on 232 for 3. That closure challenged Yorkshire to score 367 in 71 overs to win the game and thereby close the gap on  Middlesex to 15 points, with Andrew Gale's team having a game in hand on the leaders.
Although Adam Lyth was dropped in the gully by Alviro Petersen when he had made 3, he and Alex Lees batted in untroubled fashion for the entire afternoon session and Yorkshire were 148 for 0 off 41 overs at tea. At that point the visitors needed 219 off 30 overs, an asking rate of 7.3 runs an over. Demanding? Most certainly, but nothing that this Yorkshire side is not used to tackling in an era of T20 cricket.
This is not T20, though, and that needs to be borne in mind when considering Yorkshire's decisions. Bowlers can bowl higher and wider than they can in the short-form game and they can bowl as many overs as needed. Moreover, fields can be set more or less as a skipper wishes: nine men on the boundary if you like. This was also, of course, a fourth day wicket, although the ease with which Lees and Lyth added 188 runs in 52 overs suggested that it was hardly littered with unexploded bombs.
All the same, with absolutely nothing to lose but a few wickets in an attempt to secure what would have been a most wonderful victory Yorkshire agreed the draw when they required 179 runs off 19 overs with all their wickets to spend. Fifty years ago such a decision may have seemed explicable although it is doubtful whether Brian Close would have opted against having a gamble. After all, who turns down a free lottery ticket, even if the odds are massively stacked against winning? Yorkshire, one thought, might at least have given it a go.
Their first team coach, Jason Gillespie, took a different view. "Chasing was in the back of our minds. We thought we'd assess at tea, which we did. We thought 'let's keeping batting and we'll get feedback from Lythy and Leesy' he said. "They are the two lads who were out there. Their feedback was that with the deteriorating pitch, it would be a big challenge for them to go for it, let alone a new batter coming in. If it was 40 or 50 fewer runs, absolutely we'd have had a crack.
"There were a couple of those moments where we thought 'come on, we can do this'. Leesy and Lythy are always very much if push comes to shove, they want to take the attacking option. But both their feedback was the same. They felt that the pitch was deteriorating."
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Lancashire's director of cricket, Ashley Giles, took a slightly different view. "We were a little bit nervous on the balcony," he admitted. "When they got to that position with none down we perhaps thought they might have gone on a little bit longer. But that's their decision and nothing to do with us. We are happy to come out if it with a strong draw against a very good team."
And perhaps no one wearing the red rose was happier in his humble, self-effacing fashion on Tuesday evening than Hameed, who, when he reached a century off the ball immediately before Lancashire's declaration, became the youngest batsman in the history English first-class cricket to score two centuries in a match.
There is going to be ballyhoo and there is going to be hype. That was almost certain well before half-past twelve when Hameed pushed Adil Rashid to cover point for the single which made him the first Lancashire batsman to score two centuries in a Roses match and only the third batsman from either side to do so. Percy Holmes, in 1920, and Ted Lester, in 1948, were the others. Once Hameed had joined them, however, a tide of remarkable statistics continued to flow in, proclaiming the emergence of one of the most talented opening batsmen the English game has seen, at least since the emergence of Alastair Cook.
When he reached 70 in this innings, Hameed became the youngest Lancashire player to make a thousand runs in a Championship season. He is also the first teenage opener from any county to make four centuries in a Championship season. And he hasn't stopped breaking records yet. In fact, he has only just begun.
So the glare of national publicity will soon be turned on the head of this 19-year-old Boltonian who wants nothing more from life than to be allowed to pursue his vocation as a professional cricketer. Fortunately, one senses that despite his inexperience, Hameed is well able to cope with all the attention that will come his way. Amid all the questions and doubts that surrounded this day's cricket, that much is certain. It is a comforting thought on a strange evening.