Lancashire 164 for 0 (Wells 99*, Jennings 61*) trail Somerset446 (Goldsworthy 130, Rew 70 van der Merwe 55) by 282 runs
For the vast majority of the cricketers, of course, even those from Lancashire, this is an unfamiliar ground but one they will call home for all of four summer days in a season that stretches from spring to autumn. The pleasant thing, however, is that the visitors and their supporters seem to be enjoying themselves, even if Peter Siddle’s bowlers have some very hard pounding ahead of them tomorrow.
A total of 448 daunted no one but the naive. This pitch has been an absolute credit to the head groundsman, Colin Maxwell, and this is a quick-scoring ground, one that is well-known for its shortish straight boundaries and its merciless outfield in hot weather. In the break between innings the groundstaff went out to tend the pitch while the spectators were three deep at the bar. Other volunteers sold programmes and others again made sure the glass and litter collecting operations were in order.
And it’s on afternoons like these that people in these parts miss Neil McQuaid. Mind you, even when county matches were taking place, you were unlikely to see Neil; he’d probably be organising things up at the car park or doing another vital job for which no one else had volunteered. In one respect this was strange, because Neil was a former chairman and, until his death, the president of the club, and he could have spent his time in the hospitality tent. In another respect, though, his behaviour was utterly in character.
After defying death for well over a decade, Neil succumbed to cancer late last summer and on a bleak afternoon last December we buried his ashes just beyond the boundary on the railway side of the ground. Hockey was probably his main sport but he pitched in wherever it was needed and on a bench from which a few spectators watched Wells and Jennings begin Lancashire’s reply there is a plaque. It reads: “Neil McQuaid: A True Gentleman. Happy Days Shared With His S&B Ladies Cricket Team. Remembered Always. If English cricket is about Ben Stokes and Bazball and the Vitality Blast – and it absolutely is – it’s also about the many people like Neil, the folk you don’t notice yet miss like hell. Should we forget that, it will be time to roll up the circus for good.
For two more days, though, the caravans are resting in Southport and one imagines Lancashire’s batsmen are looking forward to tomorrow. Wells and Jennings batted with increasing ease for 54 overs and their unbroken 164-run stand may be only the prelude to further consumption. To judge from van der Merwe’s exclamations you might think there were two near things every over but the only clear chance fell to Goldsworthy who dropped a tough, diving catch off Brooks’ bowling when Jennings was 30. Otherwise the Lancashire openers encountered few alarms until the final over, when Jennings nearly ran himself out when trying to give the bowling to Wells, who needed one run for his century. Having been sent back and only just making it, the former Durham batsman decided to sod that for a game of soldiers and blocked the rest of the over.
And so ended another fine day at this much-beloved outground. Two miles away the Orange Order had celebrated July 12, the anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne, in a different, rather more riotous, fashion. Strangers visiting Southport might have looked on this corner of the island and marvelled that one town could host such contrasting occasions. Tomorrow it should be bats rather than batons that are twirling in celebration, although Somerset’s bowlers will want to say something about that.