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Runs in the Sun – 1340 of them!

Gerry Wolstenholme

Over four sun-kissed days at Blackpool’s Stanley Park, spectators, and there were plenty of them each day, were treated to a run fest as Lancashire and Durham produced a most enthralling game in their Vitality County Championship match. 

Not only was there the return to County Championship cricket for England captain Ben Stokes, for the first time in two years, but, with the game ending late on the final day, spectators witnessed a total of 1340 runs, the second highest ever in a Championship game at Stanley Park, only falling eight runs short of the highest scoring game at the ground [against Derbyshire in 1994].

In addition there had only been one batsman previously who had scored a century in each innings of a match in Blackpool [Warwickshire’s Jim Stewart in a murderous performance in 1959 – I was there!] and then to use an old cliché rather like London buses two came along in this game, which eventually ended late on the final day.

And the outcome was a satisfactory one for home supporters, for, the game that had the distinct possibility of slipping away from them at lunch on the final day, was finally won, relatively comfortably by 60 runs thanks to an inspired spell of pace bowling by George Balderson. He snapped up four of the final five wickets and was instrumental in the run out of the fifth, finishing the innings with figures of 4-52.

When Durham captain Scott Borthwick won the toss it was something of a surprise when he elected to field, although in fairness at that time the day was rather overcast and could have assisted his pace bowlers. Be that as it may, Luke Wells and Keaton Jennings embarked on an even-time 87-run partnership before the former was caught by Colin Ackermann at slip off Matthew Potts for 29.

Jennings and Josh Bohannon, 39, added a further 76 before Stokes made his first significant contribution to the match by having the latter caught by Callum Parkinson. George Bell, eight, went cheaply, before New Zealander Tom Bruce joined Jennings, who passed his century from 137 balls with 15 fours, before departing for 114 when Borthwick took a catch off Parkinson with the total at 214-4.

Bruce went on to make 46 before Stokes caught and bowled him and with wickets falling, it was left to Sajid Mahmood, indulging in a sort of rake’s progress, to enlighten the closing stages by smiting six fours and one six in his 40 not out that left Lancashire on 350-9 at the close.

Mahmood went swiftly on the second morning for 46 and, with Nathan Lyon six not out, Lancashire were dismissed for 357 with Ben Raine and Potts taking three wickets each for 67 and 100 respectively.

Durham began sedately enough but the crowd sat up when Lyon came on and had Borthwick caught by Wells for 10. Thereafter, only a 94-run partnership by the two South Africans, David Bedingham, and Ackermann, 44, added significantly to the total. Tom Aspinwall, in an excellent spell dismissed Ackermann, caught brilliantly one-handed over his head at slip by Jennings, to claim his initial first-class wicket and he was to add four more to finish with an excellent 5-41.

And it was Bedingham, who struck eight stylish boundaries and two sixes that enabled Durham to get remotely close to Lancashire’s total as he made 101 in 142 balls before, nine balls later and without adding to his score, playing on to Aspinwall. Graham Clark’s 24 was the best of the rest as Durham were bowled out for 236, a deficit of 121 runs. Complementing Aspinwall’s magnificent performance, Lyon took 4-59, including winning the dual against Stokes by having him caught by Bruce for only two.

When Lancashire went in again, Potts had to retire from the attack through injury after bowling just three overs and Stokes, who took over, quickly had Wells, six, caught by Potts. And before the close, Raine had Bohannon, 38, caught behind by Ollie Robinson to leave Lancashire at 91-2 when stumps were drawn.

Nightwatchman Will Williams departed quickly on the morning of day three and whilst most of the Lancashire batsmen made contributions, the innings belonged once more to Jennings. And he became the second batsman to score a century in each innings on the ground when after 147 balls and 11 fours and two sixes he completed his second century of the game. He went on to make 155 in 283 balls with 18 fours and two sixes before Stokes had him caught by Borthwick with the total then 313-7.

Of the rest, Bruce once again contributed a hard struck innings of 42 and when Matty Hurst, 30, was caught by Borthwick off the persevering Parkinson, the innings was declared at 353-9. Stokes, bowling at a fast pace throughout, took 5-98, his ninth five-wicket haul in first-class cricket.

Durham required a massive 475 for victory. Three wickets, two more to Aspinwall, were lost by the time the total had reached 97 but Bedingham and Robinson saw Durham safely to the close at 134-3.

A goodly attendance saw an entertaining last morning’s play with Bedingham and Robinson looking in no difficulty and, indeed, growing in confidence as the innings progressed. Lancashire rotated their bowlers wisely but had lost Mahmood to injury early on, thus their options were more limited. Lyon bowled a superb morning spell but the two Durham batsmen were unbeaten at lunch having added 147 runs thus putting Durham in with a fighting chance of an unlikely victory.

The Durham pair continued after the break, both having passed their centuries, Bedingham from 154 balls with 13 fours and one six, Robinson from 132 balls with 11 fours and three sixes, and when they were parted they had added 216 runs for the fourth wicket. This was a new fourth wicket record for a visiting team at Blackpool, surpassing the 199 that Trevor Bailey and Doug Insole had painstakingly (once again I was there!) put on in 1960.

Bedingham’s downfall for 103 came soon after lunch when, he edged a ball from Lyon and Hurst gleefully snapped up the catch; that made it 313-4. The pendulum was perhaps beginning to swing back to Lancashire!

And so it proved because, despite Robinson batting magnificently, wickets began to tumble with perhaps the most crucial one being that of Stokes. He began very cautiously but then he struck a mighty six into Stanley Park (one of six that required another ball during the day) and two fours to seemingly kick-start his innings. Then against Wells’ leg spin he tried two reverse sweeps both of which were abortive and in trying the stroke a third time he was bowled at 350-5 with 18 to his name. 

Was this the beginning of the end? It was when at 380 Jennings made a most significant move when he introduced Balderson into the attack again at the north end. He rewarded his captain with two wickets in one over, Clark, 14, caught by Jennings and Paul Coughlin caught at slip second ball. And in his following over Raine, three, played a trifle too early to a slower ball and Balderson gratefully took the return catch, 384-8.

Potts was run out in a misunderstanding over a second run with Robinson who just managed to cross in mid-wicket to prevent himself from being the victim. And then there was Parkinson. He held on bravely while Robinson farmed the strike as best he could and in doing so advanced to a career-best 171 not out, from 206 balls with 18 fours and four sixes, before Balderson returned to the attack at the south end and, left to fend for himself, Parkinson succumbed to the final ball of an over, caught by Jennings without scoring but at least he survived for 17 balls that enabled Robinson to shepherd Durham to a very gallant 414 all out but it spelt defeat by 60 runs.

It was a magnificent game, watched by large crowds under mainly blue skies and finally the groundsman and his staff need due recognition for providing a superb cricketing track that gave both batsmen and bowlers a chance.

Future dates for the diary for Lancashire games at Stanley Park are 9 June, Lancashire Thunder v Sunrisers, 7 July Lancashire Thunder v South East Stars and finally 28 July Lancashire Lightning v Kent Spitfires … don’t miss them!

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