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Sun shines on Lancashire; Bailey smiles upon the sun

Hampshire 351 for 8 (Bailey 127, Abbott 76*) vs Lancashire

George Bailey’s hundred rejuvenated Hampshire © Getty Images

George Bailey has not played a Test match for over three years and there were times during this broiling Mancunian afternoon when it was rather tricky to see why this is so.

One accepts at once that it is difficult to compare Lancashire v Hampshire on a steamy Monday at Emirates Old Trafford with the quite different heats produced by five-day cricket at the MCG or Mumbai; one acknowledges likewise that Bailey came into this game having scored 83 runs in five championship innings for Hampshire this season.

All the same, as Bailey adjusted his guard and got forward as often as possible to counteract the swinging deliveries bowled by a pace-dominated Lancashire attack in mid-afternoon one was entitled to wonder why a batsman capable of making 127 and batting with such technical proficiency and good sense appears permanently excluded from his country’s Test team. It is not as if the last three years have been a green and gold age.

Critics may observe that Bailey’s batting merely appeared good when compared to the errors committed around him and it is certainly true that the shots played by Jimmy Adams and Michael Carberry in the morning session at Old Trafford are unlikely to make the Rose Bowl’s choicest blooms package in September. Adams tried to play Kyle Jarvis to leg but only gave a catch to Rob Jones at cover off the leading edge; Carberry’s flat-footed slash merely nicked the ball to Alex Davies.

Those dismissals sandwiched the departure of Rille Rossouw, who was deceived by Jarvis’s slower ball and gave a return catch to the bowler. They left Hampshire on 38 for 3 after winning the toss and opting to bat on a morning borrowed from Tennessee Williams’ more sultry dramas. Suddenly this summer, we had a batting morning and Hampshire were wasting their skipper’s correct call.

Bailey, though, clearly recognised the opportunity with which his side had been presented and he revealed this in his assured driving and deft glances as much as in his vigilant defence. For a while it looked as though James Vince would partner his captain towards abundance but he was given out leg before to Luke Procter for 22 half an hour after lunch and a couple of deliveries after Lancashire had secured the second of their two ball changes.

Indeed it was a day on which Bailey had only to drive a boundary to the pavilion for the home bowlers to scrutinise the seemingly tattered object returned for their use and toss it to the umpires. When it comes to cricket balls bowlers can be as choosy as Year 11 pupils selecting their prom outfits and very nearly as prone to tantrums and sulks.

Ultimately Bailey’s resistance proved contagious as was proved by the three fifty-plus partnerships he shared with Lewis McManus, Gareth Berg and most notably Kyle Abbott, whose unbeaten 76 in the evening session was replete with uncomplicated shots played against an attack enervated by heat and devoid of the discipline it had displayed for most of the afternoon.

Yet Abbott’s selective aggression – he has whacked a dozen boundaries and is only five runs short of a career-best score – was only possible because Bailey had battled away for just over five hours and had found another partner of equal resolve and comparable proficiency. That colleague was Lewis McManus, a wicketkeeper batsman who never gives his wicket away and who joins John Simpson as one of those fine county glovemen who seem destined not to get a sniff of representative cricket. Perhaps it might help if they changed the first letter of their surnames to a “B”.

McManus put on 52 with Bailey and he did so at a stage in the day when the ball was swinging all over the shop and under the counter. It took a good ball to remove him too, Jordan Clark getting a little extra bounce and inducing an edged catch to James Anderson. McManus was replaced by Gareth Berg and another 53 were added to the total before Parry became the sixth Lancashire bowler to take a wicket when Berg missed a sweep and was leg before.

For the next 18 overs or so Bailey’s good judgement and self-denial was vindicated by Abbott’s many justified freedoms. Having reached his century off 145 balls he was eventually dismissed when he played on to Anderson, whose beard may have been an attempt to disguise himself and suggest to Bailey that he was not the bowler he had milked for 28 runs at Perth in December 2013.

No matter. Abbott was 57 when Bailey was out and he was given sensible company by Brad Tylor until the close. Hampshire have the edge in this game and they do so because their captain understood the needs of his side and met them. This is still a very good pitch and it now looks like a good toss to have won. “Bat!” said the sun as it rose over the rich Lancashire plain at around five o’clock this morning and George Bailey was only too happy to obey its injunction.

Paul Edwards is a freelance cricket writer. He has written for the Times, ESPNcricinfo, Wisden, Southport Visiter and other publications

ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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