Somerset 429 (Bartlett 110, Trescothick 100, Abell 99) and 269 for 8 dec (Leach 66, Davies 54, Parkinson 5-101) drew with Lancashire 492 (Vilas 235*, Jennings 109, Clark 50, Abell 4-43)
On a Bank Holiday afternoon made for hammock-ease and somnolence Lancashire and Somerset concocted cricket worthy of everyone’s close attention at Emirates Old Trafford. That the game would end in a draw only became apparent in the evening session when Somerset’s eighth-wicket pair, Jack Leach and Tim Groenewald, extended their side’s lead beyond 175 with the overs slipping gently away.
Leach was eventually bowled for a career-best 66 when he played inside the line to Matt Parkinson but apart from giving the legspinner his fifth wicket of the innings, that wicket was little more than the prelude to stalemate. The outcome became even more probable in retrospect, as it were, when it was discovered that Marcus Trescothick would have batted with a broken foot had he been required to do so.
All the same, until Leach and Groenewald’s 69-run stand either side of tea the visitors’ regular loss of wickets and the possibility of a hectic run-chase kept the crowd involved in a match where all outcomes, including a Somerset victory, were possible. Lancashire’s main honours were taken by that cheery scamp of a legspinner Parkinson, who took 5 for 101 and often extracted plenty of turn and bounce from this fourth-day Old Trafford wicket. Already an England Lion, Parkinson ended the game with career-best match figures of 8 for 181. He should be grateful he was offered four warm days in Manchester and close to ideal conditions in which to wheel away for 56.2 overs.
Watching Parkinson bowl to the bespectacled Leach, who looked as if he might have been more at home in Deansgate’s John Rylands Library, put one in mind of Staff matches at schools when optimistic fifth formers are put in their place by merciless masters. In fact, there are only five years or so between the pair and when Leach lifted Parkinson for a straight six the realities of professional cricket dispelled such airy notions.
But for at least two sessions there was nothing at all fanciful about Lancashire’s chances of victory. Four wickets fell in the morning session and two more in the first three overs after lunch. When Tom Abell was leg before to Parkinson, his side were 145 for 6 and Lancashire were probably a few good balls from their first victory of the season. By contrast, the morning began poorly for Somerset and did not get better until Leach joined Craig Overton in a 52-run seventh-wicket stand early in the second session.
Lancashire had made their first breakthrough with the eighth ball of the morning when two profoundly undistinguished pieces of cricket were followed by a brief moment of competence. Parkinson bowled a dirty great waist-high full-toss which Matt Renshaw tried to smear away towards Altrincham. Sadly for the honour of the Southern Cross, however, he merely skied the ball towards mid-on where Tom Bailey first made to run away from the thing before entering new co-ordinates in his CatchNav and taking a good two-handed pouch. A couple of overs later James Anderson took his only wicket of the game when he snared George Bartlett leg before on the back foot for 6, and when Steve Davies gave a bat and pad catch to Steven Croft off Parkinson, the bowler’s pumping fists reinforced the significance of the wicket.
Next over the fists were clenched again when James Hildreth was leg before on the front dog and by early afternoon Lancashire supporters were wondering if they were about to celebrate a triumph. They did not do so because Jack Leach is made of tough stuff. In a county not short of love, he is a favoured son and the five points he helped Somerset gain this afternoon may yet count for something glorious in September.