Tanya Aldred's day one report
With conkers convening on the Coronation Gardens behind the Lord’s pavilion and rain lurking maliciously behind the stands, Warwickshire monopolised the first day of the Bob Willis Trophy final.
When bad light forced the teams off, just after five o’clock, Dom Sibley and Rob Yates marched under the jaunty bunch of flowers hanging above the Long Room door like a huge bunch of mistletoe. A quick peck wouldn’t have gone amiss, after an unbroken first-wicket partnership of 120 in response to a Lancashire first-innings scorecard that, whichever way you looked at it, totted up to 78 – including extras.
For Lancashire, the game already feels less like an end-of-the-pier show and more like unwanted extra time.
After losing the toss under perky skies and being inserted, things quickly slipped out of hand as first Liam Norwell removed George Balderson, well caught by Tim Bresnan at slip, and then a superb Craig Miles went on the rampage. He plucked a falling Bramley from the ground in his follow through to remove Alex Davies, snuck a ball between Luke Wells’ bat and pad, pinned Dane Vilas on the front ankle and then zipped one in to a shuffling Steven Croft just below the knee. When Norwell persuaded Rob Jones to prod behind, Lancashire were 12 for six.
The Sky cameras darted to Paul Allott sitting on the balcony, in his last match as Lancashire’s director of cricket. Storm clouds would have been nervous of what they found. Josh Bohannon and Luke Wood steadied the reeling ship, but Bohannon wasn’t quite able to show those hardy few who had turned up quite what has made Lancashire members so happy this season, snapping Manraj Johal to midwicket where Sibley swallowed the catch.
Johal, making his first-class debut, was mobbed by his teammates, and finished with three for 29, zipping in from the pavilion end, the sun on his back. Matt Parkinson was the last man out, unable to do what he did at Aigburth and hang around for the vital runs, in this case accompanying Wells to his fifty. Miles slapped his back pocket, rich with five for 28.
With the Ashes and Lions squads to be picked in the next week, it was an opportune time to make runs and both Sibley, and Yates got stuck in. Yates driving with aplomb down the ground, and Sibley grafting away. Both were dropped off the same Wells over, which rather summed up Lancashire’s day.
Along with a proposal that the conference system is retained for the 2022 season, the ECB will put forward a recommendation to the county chairs meeting tomorrow at Lord’s that the Bob Willis Trophy Final is quietly put to bed. What was a rousing end to the 2020 Covid summer, with Somerset and Essex battling out to win the match and therefore become Bob Willis Trophy champions, has this year become an unwanted addendum. The Championship title already decided in a final thumb-gnawing two days last week: both Lancashire and Warwickshire have had their celebration parties and owned their sore heads.
Play is abandoned for the day!
Lancashire 78 all out; Warwickshire 120-0. Warwickshire lead by 42 runs. See you back here tomorrow!
In (forlorn) hope, the umpires inspect the covers and get out the light metre.
Bad light stopped play, Warwickshire 120-0 (Yates 69, Sibley 49)
And I fear that could be it.
Lancashire’s mood is summed up by a roaring lbw appeal by Luke Wood against Yates. He pleads, he shouts, he puts his head in his hands.
Sibley, off his pads, four. Nicely done. Oh dear, now Balderson drops a caught and bowled. In theory, Lancashire still have 31 overs left to bowl in the day.
I spotted this at Aigburth last week:
And as the skies darken, Warwickshire bubble along: Yates bringing up the hundred partnership off 167 balls in 117 minutes. The wind blows across the ground, rippling the slips’ trousers, their shadows falling in front of them.
Tom Bailey asks the umpires to look at the ball, they oblige and a new cherry is plucked from a cardboard box. Warwicks 92-0.
Fifty for Rob Yates
And with a four to third man, and a modest raise of the bat, Rob Yates reaches fifty.
“What is the point of the Bob Willis Trophy final?”
“To get the right Warwickshire opener on the plane to the Ashes,” says Lizzie Ammon of the The Times.
And with a vigorous pull, Yates sends Warwickshire into the lead. They have ten wickets in hand.
“We want to prove we could have won it,” said Croft .
A divine straight drive by Rob Yates which purrs across the grass back towards the nursery end rope. Warwicks, 77-0, need one more run to draw level with Lancashire’s first innings score.
Yates is dropped off Luke Wood, at second slip by Rob Jones, the ball falling through his fingers. And another, in the same over, this time Sibley, as Davies dives in front of Luke Wells at first slip and succeeds only in parrying it between them. Warwicks 73-0.
The sun is blazing through the window and on Warwickshire’s merry openers. Sibley, in baggy jumper, and Yates bundled up in something more form-fitting. Sibley leans to press forward at Balderson and peers down at his shadow reflected on the mustard pitch. And that’s four, straight down the ground. Warwickshire 66-0 and seemingly in no trouble at all.
Tea is being taken, restart at 15.20
And the sun reappears
Rain stops play. Warwickshire 49-0 (Sibley 20, Yates 27)
Bucketing down - spectators immediately retreat to underneath the upper tiers of the stands for shelter.
A gorgeous on drive off Balderson: perhaps Rob Yates will play the Josh Bohannon race-for-the-Ashes-boat role. His match-winning century against Essex in April is one of my highlights of the season and the first hint we had that this might not be Essex’s year.
Some more thoughts on the Bob have dropped in:
Oliver Carter: “A lot being said of favourable bowling conditions which is definitely true. However, I think other than one hooping in-swinging lbw, most of the wickets have been poor batting and one spectacular caught and bowled! I personally don’t see the need for this match (and I hope it is either retired or changed to something of a “super cup” between the winners of the 2 divisions) but I thought Lancs would apply themselves far better than they have to finish with some silverware.”
“Now that His Actual Bobness, Mr Willis’ hero, has announced the restart of the Never Ending Tour,” writes Billy Mills, “perhaps next season could see a Double Bobness, with Lords hosting five days of Cricket and five nights of Dylan. I can think of no finer tribute.
And finally, Bob O’Hara: “I think the problem with The Bob is that there is only one of them. So basically one bad morning and the rest is spoiled. A 7 match series wold be more fitting, but might run in to other problems, like Lancs extending the Halloween season all the way from the middle of September.”
The sun is bright and Yates and Sibley roll up their sleeves and straighten their napkins in preparation for the feast. Currently 21-0 off three overs.
Should rain ruin the game/Lancashire find some gumption and end in a draw, the Bob Willis Trophy will go to whoever is ahead on first innings.
Here come Warwickshire
Lancashire huddling in inspirational chattery: Life, Love, Laugh?
Interesting to see how this pitch will behave this afternoon. I’ve heard it said that Lord’s has the lowest average scores this season - can anyone point me towards a database tool that could work this out?
WICKET Parkinson c Burgess b Miles 4 (Lancashire 78 all out)
Parkinson fails to do what he did at Aigburth, and stay there until the vital runs have been scored (in this case for Wood to get his fifty)
The outstanding Miles: 9.5-1-28-5
Miles greets Wood with a bouncer and an lbw shout. I like this tweet, I suppose this is what the Bob could be, an end of season celebration, with an outside chance of catching the selectorial eye.
Two consecutive fours for Wood, who then steals the strike for the next over. Just five more and he’s got fifty in the carnage of 77-9.
More thoughts on the Bob - keep ‘em coming! Hello Dmytro Bojaniwskyj
“It feels right that there should be a landmark season opener & closer. The season opener should look forward without reference to the success or not of particular counties, and I like the idea of under-23s vs over-35s (or some such): players about to mature into careers vs players who deserve a bit of spotlight celebration.
The closer ought to be the cherry on the season completed, and the Bob suits me fine. I also like the three-division format. Glos seemed to have a season that was pretty much meaningful right to the end & Warwicks (born and raised near the old Cortaulds out-ground) are still going.”
If you’re thinking about coming down to Lord’s - do. There’s a tingly autumnal feel, especially in the sun, conkers and cigar smoke outside the museum shop and, so my dad tells me, a great beer on tap: Gravity. But remember to wear socks.
WICKET! Blatherwick c Hain b Johal 0 (Lancashire 57-9)
And so it continues, with a tail-enders hang out to dry to second slip.
They’re out, and the sun is shining...
Lunch: Lancashire 57-8 (Wood 31; Blatherwick 0)
Off they dine as the clouds hover threateningly over the Tavern stand. A morning-after-the-night-before session for Lancashire, Championship-esque for Warwickshire.
“Hi Tanya.” Hi Ladka Lal! “Great debut from Johal which reminds me of Ateeq Javid; whatever happened to him? Was integral for Warks pre bears incarnation.”
I’ve asked around, and he joined Leicestershire but was released at the end of last season. A bit of detective work shows him now doing coaching in Birmingham.
WICKET! Bailey lbw Johal 0 (Lancashire 57-8)
A second wicket for Johal! A slower delivery that just jags back. Through my binoculars I watch Bailey walk back through the pavilion door. It looks as if a huge bunch of mistletoe is hanging above it - if there is a CCLive! reader tucked in the pavilion, could someone please check?
Going back to the Championship format....apparently the ECB will put a recommendation to the meeting tomorrow that next season the counties continue to play three divisions (because of fears that Covid will again influence the summer), looking to return to a 10-8 two division split in 2023.
However there will be another review to be finished by April next year which will look at the whole cricket season 2023 onwards, considering each competition, what they want it to do, and how it fits in with Test cricket.
Bresnan resumes from the Nursery end and is promptly driven for four by Luke Wood.
It is squally now, and in the pavilion the lights of a chandelier are shining through the gloom.
Ian Bell is not blaming Lancashire’s Lancs-up on a runners-up mentality: “Warwickshire are playing fearless cricket, conditions were favourable to bowl, and they were outstanding with the ball.”
“I liked the BWT final last season. I imagined future editions being played out to (almost) test match level crowds at Lords. Almost like a 5-day Blast Finals Day,”* taps Stephen Connor.
“This feels million miles from that and I don’t know if it ever could be that - maybe it was just lockdown addled musing. This feels like a pointless add on since the championship has been decided by the league. Whereas last year the BWT Final was the culmination of the competition.
“I do think something at the start of the season could work. I like North v South. But it has to mean something - which is difficult to conjure.”
*I think this is very true. It felt right last year. Of the moment.
Rain stops play, Lancashire 47-7 (Wood 21, Bailey 0)
Only a sprinkling, but on come the covers. The floodlights have been switched on now too.
WICKET! Bohannon c Sibley b Johal 17 (Lancashire 47-7)
A first first-class wicket for Johal! A snap of a pull to midwicket where Sibley swallows low to the ground. Johal is high-fived and hugged by his teammates.
It is starting to cloud over, and I now have a bird’s eye view of Bresnan’s burly barrel to the crease from the Nursery End and his bright orange soled shoes. The Times’ Paul Edwards has been to Panzers, and almond croissants and cinnamon rolls are going down nicely. Lancashire 45-6, Bohannon and Wood carefully building up an innings from the ruins of 12-6.
A brightly promising first over from Johal, springing in from the pavilion end, sun on his back. Could have picked up a couple of wickets with luck on his side.
“Good to see Warks showing why they are the champions,” types Mike Daniels. “Again, most of the coverage in the lead up to this fixture has focused on Lancs, predictably.”
“Personally, even though Bob Willis was a Warks player, I think the BW trophy fitted a moment in time and was a great way of celebrating the man. It might be best to leave it after this game which, hopefully, Warks will win in his memory.”
This is interesting from Steve Cox: “Personally I think if it’s ever going to have any meaning it should be played as a Championship decider between the 1st and 2nd in the final Championship table. In order to reward the top team I would give them the choice of whether to bat without tossing and also the benefit of the draw in the event of that result.” I like the idea of weighting things towards the Championship winning side, in the event of a first v second play-off.
No wickets for a few minutes and Lancashire hit the roaring twenties. Time for an Ashes-boat boarding hundred from Josh Bohannon.
In other news, Covid hits the start of the Australian domestic season.
WICKET! Jones c Burgess b Norwell 1 (Lancashire 12-6)
He fences, he falls.
WICKET! Croft lbw Miles 0 (Lancashire 11-5)
Slightly disappointment that Bresnan hasn’t been able to add to his slip-catching tally. Another rap on the pad, another goodbye. Miles slaps his thigh, pocket rich with 4-7.
I was thinking of leaving this discussion till later in the week, but it seems Lancashire have pre-booked on the 19:57 from Euston tomorrow night. I’m interested to know if you would still like the Bob to be played next year and, if so, would you like it tweaked? Played at the start of the season between first and second? North v South? England XI v Overseas XI? Champion County v MCC? Ping me on email@example.com or let loose BTL.
WICKET! Vilas lbw Miles 0 (Lancashire 9-4)
Big Dane jiggles and bends at the crease, but is hit bang on the ankle and is sent on his way.
WICKET! Wells b Miles 0 (Lancashire 9-3)
Um, Lancashire...this is not good for freelancers! Wells plays carefully, but ball brushes pad and removes bail.
WICKET! Davies c and b Miles 7 (Lancashire 8-2)
And that really was Davies’ penultimate innings for Lancashire before joining Warwickshire. A superb caught and bowled, running and scooping the ball one handed off the turf.
WICKET! Balderson c Bresnan b Norwell 1 (Lancashire 8-1)
An almost imperceptible tear in the galaxy as Balderson glides to slip.
Belying the weather-forecast, the sun is beaming down on St John’s Wood. This might - might be the second and final Bob. The ECB are putting in a recommendation to the meeting of county chairmen and CEOs here at Lord’s tomorrow that the Bob is not played next year.
The five minute bell is rung and out come the County Champions, all sprightly and bright, followed by the runners-up. Both teams line up facing the pavilion, we think in memory of Bob Willis. I can’t see many in the ground, perhaps a hundred.
Warwickshire won the toss and are having a bowl!
Lancashire: Balderson, Davies, Wells, Bohannon, Vilas, Jones, Croft, Wood, Bailey, Blatherwick, Parkinson.
Warwickshire: Rhodes, Bresnan, Briggs, Burgess, Hain, Johal (first-class debut), Lamb, Miles, Norwell, Sibley, Yates.
Good morning from Lord’s! The two teams are on the ground practising, Lancashire to the right, Warwickshire to the left, as I look from the media centre, and there is no sign in their vigour of any end-of-season douleur. Weather check: Paul Allot is in trousers and the MCC flag is blowing away.