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Josh Bohannon brings up double-century as Lancashire build commanding lead

Gloucestershire 252 (Harris 67, Dent 52, Higgins 51*, Hasan 6-47) and 67 for 3 (Hammond 24*) trail Lancashire556 for 7 dec (Bohannon 231, Vilas 139, Wells 59) by 237 runs

No game offers a greater range of contrasts than cricket. Think Daniel Vettori and Brett Lee; Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Virender Sehwag; a Test match at Hamilton and another at The Oval; Edgbaston on the evening of the Vitality Blast final and Arundel on the morning of a Championship match. Or pick your own people, places and times, and then reflect that in many respects, cricket’s capacity for inclusion in limitless.

So much was clear at Emirates Old Trafford on the third day of this match, when a tea interval lasting a mere twenty minutes bridged passages of play that could hardly have been more different. In the first Lancashire scored runs with merry freedom as they rattled up their highest total against Gloucestershire.

Josh Bohannon had already made a double-hundred and Dane Vilas, his second century in successive innings. Prior to the second interval of the day, Danny Lamb reverse-pulled Zafar Gohar for six and the ball bounced towards a burger van, where a group of spectators, clothed incongruously in fancy-dress were refuelling. What would be almost de rigueur in a five-day game on this ground looked like an asylum outing on this sunlit spring afternoon.

Then Lancashire declare with a lead of 303 and the mood changes utterly. James Anderson, wicketless in the first innings, runs in from the end named after him and the final ball of his 18th over lifts wickedly from just short of a length. No Gloucestershire bowler has extracted this amount of bounce from the Manchester pitch and it is too much for Marcus Harris, whose fence merely edges a catch to Phil Salt behind the stumps. It is the 1027th wicket of Anderson’s career and he celebrates it joyously. He dismisses so many batters partly because he still has the desire to do so.

But this Lancashire attack is an array of talents. Chris Dent tries to cut a wideish ball from Saqib Mahmood but only nicks a chance high to Salt’s left, where the keeper dives to complete the catch. Gloucestershire are scoring runs but they are little more than scratches against their deficit and Lancashire’s best is yet to come. Hasan Ali is already a favourite among the crowd at Old Trafford and that status is now enhanced by the gorgeous yorker that uproots James Bracey’s middle pole, shearing the stump in two as it does so. Comparisons with Waqar Younis or Wasim Akram might embarrass Hasan but they should not. His celebration – one fist to the ground, arms aloft, three punches to the heavens – should become a dance craze at 42s or Popworld Manchester. Then again, one doubts that this city’s clubbers have much time for County Championship cricket.

The day ends with Luke Wells bowling leg-spin and Gloucestershire still 237 runs shy of making Lancashire bat again. A week ago Vilas’s cricketers needed four wickets to beat Kent and it took a long day’s work at Canterbury before they managed it. Their coach returned to Manchester at half past one on Easter Monday. Tomorrow they need seven wickets but Graeme van Buuren’s remaining batters will have to sustain a comparable rearguard to add eight points to the three they have already gained. Suddenly the morning’s play seems distant, indeed, almost as though it belonged to a different game.

For the temper of this third day had begun much as the second evening had ended: Vilas manufactured run-scoring opportunities when none appeared available while Bohannon batted on without sign of perturbation. The Lancashire captain reached his fifty off 51 balls while his young apprentice passed 150 for the third time in his career. Gohar replaced Ajeet Dale and the improvement was immediately apparent, not least in body language.

It became the sort of session when batters cash in. If run-scoring was not easy, it seemed so. There was no pressure. Landmarks were ticked off like items on a shopping list. The most significant were reached in the two overs before lunch when Bohannon pushed van Buuren into the off side to reach the first double-century of his career and Vilas made room to cut Gohar to the boundary, thus completing his second century of this youthful season. That was an effective counter to the left-arm spinner’s tactic of bowling on or outside leg stump in order to throttle the run rate. Umpire Steve O’Shaughnessy had already offered his own response to this strategy by twice signalling wides. So no wickets fell for the third morning in succession, a fact which was particularly grieving to Gloucestershire given that they thought Bohannon had been caught at the wicket off Gohar when he was 184. However, O’Shaughnessy was as immune to their appeals as the snood-wearing Richard Illingworth had been on Friday and the visiting bowlers may have observed tartly at luncheon that scoring 200 runs is easier when you get three innings.

At least van Buuren’s bowlers gained some rewards for their labours in the afternoon session. Having put on 203 for the fourth wicket with Bohannon, Vilas slapped Shaw to Miles Hammond at cover and departed for 109. It is the first time he has been dismissed in a first-class innings between 100 and 120, a seemingly inconsequential statistic but one that reflects the Lancashire’s captain’s habitual determination to bat on once he has reached three figures.

Next over Bohannon was gone for 231 when he gloved a sweep off van Buuren and Bracey took the catch. Hasan hit a six and a four before skying a catch to Ryan Higgins and we spent the remainder of the innings watching Lamb clouting the ball to all parts while Zafar’s 65 overs equalled the record for the number of balls delivered by a Gloucestershire cricketer against Lancashire. That mark was set by Tom Goddard at Ashley Down in Bristol in 1938 and by the time Vilas called off his dogs at tea, only five bowlers had sent down more balls for Gloucestershire in any first-class innings, the most recent of them being that brilliant slow left-armer and grumpy Bolshevik, Charlie Parker, at Fry’s Ground in Bristol in 1927.

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


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